The smart meters issue in British Columbia reared its head once again this week with BC Liberal Minister of Energy Bill Bennett announcing that the government would do what they said they wouldn’t, and that is drop the requirement for homeowners to have smart meters installed.
There are a number of reasons why some 60,000 British Columbians have thus far refused the smart meters, and they range from worries around wireless signals to security issues and privacy concerns. But one of the largest concerns for many is the democratic deficit view of their implementation. For some standouts the lack of consultation and in turn choice to have them installed, will not be assuaged by Bennett’s announcement.
“We don’t want to force people to have a smart meter if they really don’t want one. It’s not our intention to offend people or bully people,” said Energy Minister Bill Bennett
Now being considered for the holdouts are digital meters with the transmitters turned off so they don’t transmit radio signals. But the kicker is the consumer will have to pay an extra fee to have the meter modified and installed with the likelihood that they will also have to pay for manual meter readings. The BC NDP differs only slightly on the issue by saying that instead of allowing BC Hydro to decide the fees alone, that they put the decision into the hands of the B.C. Utilities Commission.
But some questions remain like what about those who feel they were forced to get the meters installed? Will they now be able to opt-out and have a non-transmitting meter installed? How about the general public – will they too be able to opt out? The Vancouver Sun notes that BC Hydro spokesperson Cindy Verschoor said that, “the opt-out program would likely also be offered to those who already have a smart meter installed in their homes.” As of this writing there is no definitive answer to those questions nor to the total cost for anyone looking to opt-out.
Not happy with the announcement by the BC Minister of Energy are groups like the non-profit StopSmartMeters.ca Society. James Smith the president of StopSmartMeters.ca says, “This is no concession. Why has Mr Bennett not agreed to amend Section 17 of the Clean Energy Act to reflect the intent of his concession? Why is he afraid to bring true democratic process into this issue?”
Smith is currently urging the 60,000 holdouts to continue holding out by saying, “Until such time that the government agrees to hold proper democratic process on this issue and to amend the Clean Energy Act to reflect the will of the public as a whole we can only view Mr Bennett’s concession as a longer-term ploy to ultimately get their way and install a wireless smart meter on every home.”
“Why not charge those that want a meter an opt-in fee and leave it to the public to decide if having one is an economic benefit or not?”
StopSmartMeters.ca president James Smith
Bennett’s job is not going to get any easier as it is falling into his lap to explain to residents and business users of BC Hydro why they are in for an expected rate shock. The issue was raised during the 2013 BC provincial election with the NDP hinting at substantial increases for consumers and businesses alike.