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Fees persuade most smart meter holdouts
BC Hydro's imposition of manual meter reading fees has persuaded most holdouts to accept a wireless smart meter.
BC Hydro imposed a $35 monthly fee starting Dec. 1 for customers who refuse to part with their mechanical electricity meters, after offering the 68,000 customers who still had them the option of accepting the new meter with the radio transmission function on or off.
BC Hydro reported the results this week to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC), which is reviewing the fees. More than 48,000 customers chose the smart meter to avoid the meter reading fee. Another 450 chose the radio-off meter, which comes with a $100 setup fee and $20 a month starting April 1 to cover costs of collecting readings.
Another 6,270 customers chose to keep their mechanical meters, and 13,110 more did not respond to BC Hydro's letters, so they will have the $35 fee added to their bills until they choose another option.
BC Hydro reports that 99 per cent of its customers now have the wireless meter. Most of those have been switched to automated billing, and have their daily electricity use displayed on their online account pages.
Claims of health effects from wireless meter transmissions have been rejected by health authorities, and also by the BCUC in a review of FortisBC's wireless meter program. BCUC found that the radio frequency signal from a bank of smart meters is less than 10 per cent of the natural background level, and a tiny fraction of the exposure from a cellular phone. (See chart at bottom of this commentary).
Citizens for Safe Technology, one of the more active opponents of the wireless grid, was represented at the FortisBC hearings by Donald Maisch. BCUC rejected Maisch's claims of health hazards, noting that Maisch's "consulting livelihood depends on public fears and concerns about radio frequency exposure."