The last 2,500 smart-meter holdouts across B.C. may soon be out of options.
As the seals on the remaining “legacy” electrical meters have expired, B.C. Hydro is requiring residents who rejected installation of a smart meter in the past to switch to a “radio-off” smart meter or face having their power disconnected.
The utility company began contacting customers in August to inform them of their limited choices, issuing about 350 “final notices of disconnect” across the province, according to B.C. Hydro. So far, staff have conducted about a dozen disconnections out of more than two million accounts.
The old meters, which were usually reverified and resealed every two to 10 years, must now be removed from service when their Measurement Canada accuracy seals expire, as B.C. Hydro no longer stocks or services them.
Many of the 60,000 B.C. Hydro customers who first rejected installation of a smart meter when the utility company moved from electromagnetic meters to smart meters in 2013 have already transitioned to a smart meter, but a committed group of about 2,500 holdouts remain — and some aren’t planning to give in.
A Surrey couple has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination based on physical disability, saying the utility company’s threat to disconnect the power has comprised their health and safety.
Cheryl Shewchuk and Daryle Hanson said B.C. Hydro installed a smart meter at their home without their permission, disregarding a “No Trespassing” sign posted on the existing meter.
Shewchuk said she was sick in bed on the morning of Oct. 2 when she heard a knock at the door. She was unable to answer and later discovered the house’s electrical meter had been replaced with a smart meter.
“As far as I’m concerned, they stole our meter,” she told Postmedia News on Thursday.
Earlier this year Shewchuk and Hanson began receiving letters advising them that the legacy meter was expired and needed to be replaced. “We have made numerous attempts and we must complete a meter exchange at this address,” said the letter from B.C. Hydro, provided to Postmedia by Shewchuk. The couple’s electricity would be disconnected if they didn’t “arrange access” for the exchange.
But Shewchuk said the couple never gave the utility company permission to change the meter. Instead, they taped a sign to the box, stating: “Do not install a smart meter here … This is notice of my refusal to accept a ‘smart meter’ … ”
She’s not certain why B.C. Hydro disregarded the sign. The utility company was unable to provide Postmedia with specific information on the situation without knowing Shewchuk’s name and address, which she was reluctant to allow Postmedia to provide to the utility company.
Shewchuk said her husband is a double-amputee and has several disabilities, including diabetes. He has also undergone a kidney transplant. The couple is concerned about the safety of wireless technology and the radiation it emits. They’re also wary of the “radio-off” smart meter, which doesn’t send a radio signal.
“It might say radio off, but we still don’t have control over it. I can’t prove if it’s on or off,” said Shewchuk.
The meter installed at the couple’s house is a radio-off smart meter, which will result in a $20 monthly fee because it must be manually read by a B.C. Hydro employee. Previously, they had been paying $32 per month to keep a legacy meter.
“They haven’t given me a reason to switch,” she said. “Why does the (new) meter need to be read every hour? It is constantly pinging and collecting data and then sending messages. I should be able to say no to that.”