By: Dale Bass  January 8, 2015

 BC Hydro won’t reconnect a Kamloops family that had its power cut off last month unless the utility is allowed to install a smart meter that can have the radio turned off, for which there is a monthly charge.

When the family called BC Hydro, the Crown corporation said that, because of the disconnection, the utility can now install a smart meter when the power is reconnected.

The BC Hydro statement to the family contradicts a statement last year by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who is in charge of the utility, when he said the government won’t “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.”

Bennett also said in July 2014 that people can opt out of the smart-meter program, but will have to pay the costs of having analog meters read.

Asked about the discrepency between Bennett’s statement and BC Hydro’s requirement for the family to accept a smart meter, the ministry’s communications spokesman, Jake Jacobs, referred all questions to BC Hydro.

The Kamloops family is one of three BC Hydro clients to contact KTW in recent weeks after their power was disconnected in November.Each retains an analog meter and each has refused to pay the monthly $32.40 charge imposed on those who rejected the smart meters when they were rolled out last year.The family asked for its name to be withheld as it is preparing to launch legal action against the utility.The family is using a generator and has a wood-burning stove to provide heat.The father of the family said he rejected the smart meter for several reasons, including a concern about the radio frequencies that run it and their impact on health.He is also worried about safety, pointing to a situation in Summerland last month that saw an unexpected power surge blow seven smart meters off houses and as far as 10 feet away.He also mentioned the nine house fires in Saskatchewan that led the province to begin removing smart meters.While he acknowledged the Saskatchewan meters are of a different type of radio-frequency equipment than those installed in B.C., he said his issue includes the seating into which the meters are affixed and his concern about proper installation.

With a background of certification to work in electronics and with electricity, he said he believes the prongs in the seating could be damaged with the new installations — which are not done by licensed electricians, but under the supervision of one — and lead to internal arcing that could cause fires.

He said even having the radio off does not address his worry about the potential fire risk.

BC Hydro community-relations officer Dag Sharman said the sockets are owned by  customers and it is their responsibility to maintain them.

Sharman added that, when a meter is being exchanged, BC Hydro employees inspect the socket “as a courtesy to customers.”

BC Hydro customer-service general manager Keith Anderson said disconnection “is always a last resort.”

He said the utility offers flexible payment options and many notices for non-payment before a power supply is disconnected.

Other media stories on BC Hydro disconnections have said the utility has a policy to not disconnect if the temperature drops below freezing, but Anderson said that is not true.

“The only time we do not disconnect residential customers is over the holiday period. This year, that period falls from Dec. 21 to Jan. 5.

“There is no moratorium on reconnection. We do reconnect over the holiday period.”


NDP’s Dix: BC Hydro overcharging

Adrian Dix thinks BC Hydro needs to look to the Okanagan to realize it is overcharging people who are refusing smart meters in their homes.

Dix, the NDP’s critic on the BC Hydro file, said it makes no sense that Fortis BC charges its customers who have stayed with their legacy meters $9 a month while BC Hydro charges its legacy-meter customers $32.40 monthly.

The MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway said Hydro Quebec charges its customers who have refused a smart meter $8 a month.

“This is a dramatic overcharging and BC Hydro is not treating its customers well,” he said.

Dix noted most who have refused a smart meter have done so because of health concerns.

“They have not been inauthentic in that regard. I just think they should be treated with more respect,” he said, noting the provincial government agreed people can opt out of the smart-meter program.

Dix said he is aware of at least one complaint by a Kamloopsian who had her power cut off last month because she has been refusing to pay the monthly $32.40 fee.

Ann Findrik had been paying all but that legacy-meter charge and her electricity was disconnected on Nov. 19. During the cold snap later that month, her water pipes burst.

Dix said he doesn’t accept BC Hydro’s explanation the fee covers a variety of other requirements, in particular the Crown corporation’s explanation that it needs to have an expensive theft-detection system set up solely for legacy-meter customers.

That system has the utility using 200 check meters to determine electricity consumption for 5,000 legacy-meter customers.

Before the smart-meter program was brought into existence, the utility had just 20 check meters for its 1.9-million customers.

“This is excessive and punishing for customers,” Dix said in a letter he sent to Environment Minister Bill Bennett.

He said BC Hydro has “lost something in the translation when you have monthly fees four times what they pay in Quebec and Hydro is just making their own lives difficult,” with people like Findrik turning to the media when their power is cut off despite paying for electricity she has used.

“And, remember, this was all done when hydro rates went up 28 per cent more in the actual rates,” Dix said. “I think they can do better.”


Note on home owners statement (video) about location / cause of fire :

Smart Meter Fires are occurring not only in the base but also in the meters themselves.