By    April 26, 2012

Smart meters are coming to Whistler and Sea to Sky, whether customers want them or not. However, some opponents are encouraging residents to continue to fight, and to ask BC Hydro not to install the meters at their homes.

Squamish Councillor Bryan Raiser believes the meters are inevitable, but he has serious issues with the way that the wishes of local governments and BC Hydro customers are being overlooked, and with the lack of public consultation.

“Last year at UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities), mayors and councillors sent a strong message to the province that there are significant concerns to be addressed before making these mandatory,” said Raiser, referring to a motion put forward to place a moratorium on the new meters until issues could be addressed and resolved. “Those concerns fell on deaf ears and we are getting (the meters) whether we want them or not. ”

As well as the UBCM, some 39 communities in B.C. have signed a call for a moratorium on the meters.

Raiser said he’s not opposed to the smart grid concept or metering, but there are other ways to achieve that without going wireless. Several other metering systems use wired meters and can even send data through power lines.

“It’s the price we pay to live on the grid,” he said of the smart meters. “However, my meter is five feet from where my children and I sleep, so the health concerns are certainly top of mind. Yes, I understand that we are already being damaged with cell phones and wireless connections. However, when these concerns are being dismissed with ‘you’re already being poisoned so what’s wrong with more poison’ it is simply not a good argument when the individual has no choice in getting these meters.”

As well, Raiser said he’s concerned that his bill will increase as a result of the meters, either through billing errors or changes to the way BC Hydro bills.

In Whistler, Jeremy Thom has gotten rid of his cordless phone and home WiFi, and is asking BC Hydro not to install smart meters outside of his townhouse.

He’s chiefly concerned about the radio frequency (RF) radiation that all wireless devices emit, from cell phones to children’s toys.

“We have six meters right outside our door (for his townhouse unit), and our meter isn’t even one of them,” he said. “Even if I could stop mine from getting changed, all they need is one meter.”

Thom has done his research, and has discovered that groups of meters will share the same wireless signal, so the intensity of the radio frequency only doubles if you have multiple meters installed. However, he says that the amount of time the meter will be sending out signals will increase as it sends data from all of the meters in the group.

“It’s like having a two-watt microwave on the side of your house with no door,” he said.

Thom is concerned about the cumulative effects of exposure to the meters along with exposure to other RF-emitting devices. Some research suggests that children are particularly susceptible to health issues.

He is recommending that people concerned about the meters place signs on the meters asking to opt out. “Eventually it’s going to be mandatory. They’re going to lay off all the meter readers and then we’ll have no choice.”

He’s also recommended that people go the extra step and call BC Hydro to refuse the installation.

BC Hydro has given a few customers a grace period, but it has stated that all customers will need to comply by the end of 2012. They say less than one per cent of customers have voiced concerns.

Since the beginning the program has been criticized for its billion dollar price tag, its limited benefits to BC Hydro under the current billing system and the use of RF technology that some believe is insecure, invasive and could lead to health issues for residents. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and World Health Organization classified RF as a potential carcinogen.

About 21,000 meters are to be installed in Squamish and Whistler.

According to BC Hydro, the meters are only active for a total of a minute per day. Over the 20-year life of the meters they claim that the meters will emit the same amount of radiation as a 30-minute cell phone call. As well, the signals are lower than the lowest safety thresholds in the world — 2.0 microwatts per square centimetre versus 4.5 in Swiss schools and hospitals.