B.C.’s Opposition New Democrats accepted an anti-smart-meter petition with almost 30,000 signatures Monday and promised to seek hard-wired meters for people concerned about the health effects of wireless technology.
NDP critic John Horgan tabled the petition in the legislature and said he’s heard for years the health and privacy concerns related to smart electric meters.
An NDP government would “give a direction to the utilities commission to give us best advice on what opt- out provision would suit the B.C. context,” said Horgan. “Other jurisdictions are doing that now.”
In Quebec, the government offered to charge a modest fee to people who want to have a wired electric meter, instead of new wireless technology, and an annual fee to have the meter read manually. “I think that’s a reasonable approach,” said Horgan.
The B.C. Liberal government has been hammered by critics who claim tens of thousands of unwilling British Columbians are being forced to accept smart meters, despite concerns over health and privacy.
The $1-billion B.C. Hydro program replaces old power meters with new devices that communicate information on electricity usage wirelessly to Hydro computers. Critics claim the wireless technology has negative health effects.
The Citizens for Safe Technology Society presented Horgan with 29,057 signatures from people opposed to the smart meters.
“It calls for a moratorium on the smart grid,” said Una St. Clair, society spokeswoman. “This whole program needs to be stopped.”
Energy Minister Rich Coleman said the government is talking to the approximately 70,000 people who have refused smart meters.
At the end of 2012, B.C. Hydro reported that 93 per cent of customers — about 1.73 million locations — have accepted the smart meters. B.C. Hydro has said the devices help it to monitor electricity demand and make adjustments when necessary, to detect outages, to record electric usage for billing without the need for staff to go house to house, and to promote conservation by giving customers access to their daily electric use statistics.
Coleman said the project requires wireless meters to form a smart grid, and wired meters aren’t being considered despite the NDP’s position. “They can do all the speculation they want,” Coleman said of the NDP. “We’re going to go through what I said we would do.”
He reiterated that no one will be forced to accept a smart meter during the next few months while the issue is further investigated, though anti-smart meter advocates say they hear stories every day about installations being forced despite the objections of homeowners.
People who have accepted smart meters against their will have “every right” to raise those issues with the utilities commission should the NDP form the next government, said Horgan.