A not-so-smart backlash against BC Hydro

The battle against wireless "smart metres" finds some middle ground
Ward Perrin / PNG; Carlos Osorio / CP

Opponents of BC Hydro’s “smart meter” program have won a pyrrhic victory in a battle against the devices, which wirelessly transmit data on power consumption, or outages, to the provincial crown corporation. Groups like Citizens for Safe Technology and the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters have threatened lawsuits and human rights complaints, and together with the union representing now-obsolete meter readers, have waged a campaign claiming the devices invade privacy and boost costs while the radio waves jeopardize health. BC Hydro claims the total radio wave exposure over a meter’s 20-year life equals one 30-minute cellphone call.

The corporation has already installed 1.8 million meters. Last week, with 96 per cent of customers converted over, provincial Energy Minister Bill Bennett threw a bone to the 60,000 refuseniks: They can keep their analog meters or accept new ones with the transmitters disabled. There’s a still-undetermined fee for either option to pay for meter reading and modification. Bennett calls it “an appropriate balance” to ensure those with smart meters don’t subsidize those who opt out.

The fight will continue, said Una St. Clair and Sharon Noble, heads of the anti-meter groups. “It is imperative the Smart Grid as a whole be stopped before irreparable damage has been done to fauna, flora and humans from the pulsed microwave radiation mesh blanketing our province,” they said in a statement. It’s unlikely they’ll reverse a wireless tide. Ontario and Quebec are also installing millions of smart meters. And as the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association notes, 27 million Canadians have cellphones, and 99 per cent of the population has access to wireless services.