Howie Harrington, 72, was among the about 60,000 B.C. Hydro customers who rejected installation of smart meters in 2013.

A North Vancouver man said B.C. Hydro is being a “bully” by threatening to cut off his power because he doesn’t want a smart meter installed in his home.

Howie Harrington, 72, was among the about 60,000 B.C. Hydro customers who rejected installation of smart meters in 2013 when the company transitioned from analog meters to the new technology. He has been paying $34 a month to retain his “legacy meter” — paying, in total, more than $2,000 over the last five years.

But, last December, B.C. Hydro began pressing him to switch to a smart meter. Two weeks ago, he received a disconnection notice, giving him until Oct. 7 to switch.

“Under no circumstances should they be cutting off a senior’s power with winter coming,” Harrington said. “There is no way they should have the right to shut power off to someone paying the bills. That’s just not right.”

Harrington doesn’t own a cellphone and doesn’t use computers, although his wife does. He doesn’t like smart meters because he’s worried about the potential impacts of radio-frequency radiation, and because it feels “big brother” to him.

“I’m still against it,” he said. “This smart meter is constantly reading everything in your house … then it sends the information to some other location. Technically, it’s an invasion of privacy.”

Harrington said he was offered an option of having a “radio-off” smart meter, meaning the device will have its transmitting feature disabled. He will have to pay a $22.60 setup fee and a $20 monthly fee to cover the cost of manual reading.

If he agrees to a regular smart meter, he said he’ll have to pay a $55 installation fee — adding insult to injury, he said, since he doesn’t want one in the first place, he said. “Now they want me to pay for a smart meter in my home. No way I’d do that.”

Harrington was charged $68.50 for a failed meter installation in December. He received a second notice in August, when he was away on vacation, warning him his meter has to be changed.

On Sept. 23, Harrington received a final disconnection notice saying his power will be cut off unless he arranges for a meter exchange. If his power is disconnected, he will be on the hook for a $700 reconnection charge. By print deadline, Harrington still had power to his home.

B.C. Hydro said it’s currently replacing the last remaining 2,500 electromagnetic and digital meters with expired seals, with the goal of transitioning everyone to a smart meter or a radio-off smart meter. About 99 per cent of B.C. Hydro customers already have smart meters.

The old meters, which are usually reverified and resealed every two to 10 years, have to removed from service when their Measurement Canada accuracy seals expire, said spokeswoman Susie Rieder. B.C. Hydro said it no longer stocks or services the old meters.

“Disconnections are always a last resort,” Rieder added. “We provide a number of letters and phone calls over many months to customers that have meters with expired seals to advise them of the need to exchange the meter and the potential for disconnection prior to attempting the meter exchange.”

Harrington, a retired electrician, is worried about how he and his wife will cope if their power is disconnected, but is determined to stand his ground.

“If they cut my power off, I’m not going to bow down. It’s not going to happen,” he said.

Howie Harrington doesn’t want to give up his old analog meter for a smart meter. B.C. Hydro has issued him a disconnection notice. ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG

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