Golden MLA has concerns over smart meter request

Norm Macdonald worries that Minister Bennett's suggestion of smart meter "opt out" could be too costly if not done properly.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett says there are about still 60,000 BC Hydro customers who are resisting installation of wireless electricity meters (smart meters), and he wants the utility to offer them manual meter readings, for a price.

“What we’re contemplating at this point is that maybe we can deliver a digital meter that has the radio turned off,” Bennett said. “We just feel that we don’t want to bully people into taking the smart meter if they don’t want it.”

Modifying the meters for different customers and sending out human meter readers would generate costs that should not be passed on to the majority of customers who accepted wireless meters, Bennett said.

He offered no estimate of the cost, but predicted that more people will drop their opposition rather than pay for extra service.

Bennett added he agreed with B.C.’s medical health officer in their opinion that signals from wireless meters are not a health hazard, but he doesn’t want them forced on people who believe otherwise.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald said smart meters have caused concerns for many people in his constituency.

“It has been controversial for a number of reasons. It was introduced without a business plan with legislation that specifically kept the program away from the utilities commission,” he said. “Most of the local opposition here (in the Golden area) was around health concerns. We had a number of people who felt very sternly that they did not want smart metres on their homes.”

Though Macdonald is happy people will have a choice, he does feel the cost of checking the old meters should be set by someone other than BC Hydro.

“Now what the government is saying is that they will accept the blended system. People who do not want smart meters will not have to take them but they will have to accept and additional cost from BC Hydro staff who will have to physically come and check the meters,” he said. “The cost is likely reasonable but it should be set by the Utilities Commission so that it is a neutral group. I think that if it is set by government the possibility is it will be a punitive damage cost and not based on actual cost.”

With files from Black Press