Russell Irwin, who is fight Hydro One over their smartmeters, with a generator
he was given in case his power is cut off by the utility,
Monday, September 16, 2013. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)
TORONTO – That’s it. He’s off the grid.
Tuesday is the first day of the rest of Russell Irwin’s life without access to the Ontario power supply.
He knows that by late Tuesday evening Hydro One will be cutting power to his Orangeville home because of his refusal to meet the utility’s demand that he accept a smart meter.
So this veteran who served Canada by driving a tank through some of the most harrowing land battles of the Second World War is doing what he does best.
Irwin is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
“My family has helped me buy a generator so I can be self sufficient,” Irwin said. “Canadians are an independent people and I think I should be ready when Hydro cuts my power off like they said they would.
“We managed to get the money together somehow for the generator and fuel so I will just have to fight on.”
Irwin has plenty of support in his battle.
Son-in-law Dwayne Huxted says he has been inundated with calls from people wanting to know what they could do to help. Many had stories of their own that back the original claim by Irwin that he had no say in the meter being installed by what he called “trespassers” on his property.
They also underwrite the argument that the new Ontario smart meter grid’s essential innovation is information. How it will be shared is a common worry for a growing number of consumers.
“People are worried about the unwarranted privacy intrusion smart meter technology enables,” Huxted said. “The broader issue here is the ‘ownership’ it grants utilities over private data of users and their appliances and the lack of informed consent.
“Smart meter data can tell an observer much more about a home than the information from the old analogue technology.
“It gives a snapshot of a residence, its occupants, their habits and the way they live.”
Perhaps Mr. Irwin can look west for inspiration. Consumers in B.C. fought the smart meter introduction and eventually won concessions.
B.C. Hydro customers who don’t want a smart meter installed in their homes pay a levy or consider other options for partially opting out of the program.
The corporation says consumers without the device will automatically be charged $35 a month as of Dec. 1.
Customers who take the meter but want the radio transmitter shut off will have to pay a one-time fee of $100, plus $20 a month for manual readings.
Hydro has installed smart meters in nearly all homes in B.C., but is sending letters to customers who don’t have them, saying they must sign and return a form indicating their option by Dec. 1.
Premier Kathleen Wynne is certainly not keen to enter the debate.
Given the opportunity to comment on forced smart meter installations Monday, she chose to repeat talking points rather than address the issue.
Asked by a reporter “do you think someone should be required to have a smart meter?” the premier replied: “What we want is for people to have the opportunity to monitor their usage as they choose. We want people to have that opportunity.”
Spoken like a true politician, premier.
As for Hydro One, it has refused to even say if it has considered introducing an opt-out for consumers who do not want a smart meter.
A spokesman said it is beyond their control.
“Hydro One is required to follow the condition set by its regulator, the Ontario Energy Board and therefore cannot change the smart meter requirements for its customers.”