Meters process not so smart: councillors

Installations have already begun in Greater Victoria

Elizabeth Kozak holds a sign at Sunday's protest organized by the Citizens for Safe Technology Society and the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters at the legislature. About 200 people attended the rally

Elizabeth Kozak holds a sign at Sunday's protest organized by the Citizens for Safe Technology Society and the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters at the legislature. About 200 people attended the rally

The chorus of voices expressing concern over B.C. Hydro’s smart meter program has grown a little louder.

Oak Bay is the latest municipality to formally address the Crown corporation’s plan to install 1.8 million meters at homes and businesses around the province. There has been plenty of debate over the meters, on two main fronts.

Some are concerned that not enough is known about how electromagnetic radiation emitted by the wireless meters will affect human health. Others say an aggressive installation schedule has given residents little time to make formal appeals to B.C. Hydro to prevent their current meter from being replaced.

Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro’s community relations manager, was on hand at last week’s Oak Bay council meeting to explain the rollout plan and to assuage people’s fears about the meters’ purported health risks.

But it wasn’t enough for some councillors.

“This is not a two-way conversation, this is ‘We will give you the information and we will carry on,’” said Coun. Tara Ney. “I don’t know the science, I’m not a specialist, I don’t profess to know what’s right or wrong here. But what I do know is because of the way this is being handled, people’s concerns are not being fielded seriously.”

The replacements will eventually happen, said Olynyk, but if someone is worried about the long-term effects of the meters, B.C. Hydro will meet with them to try to clear the air.

“It’s not a question of opting out completely,” he said. “It’s a delay. We want to have a discussion with those customers and ease their mind over any concerns they may have.”

But some aren’t satisfied with the response they’ve received.

“It’s a matter of educating the public,” said Oak Bay resident Tatiana Laliupe. “When I leave messages, they go unanswered. I contacted them three times and all I got was one very brief answer.”

Some residents have built boxes around their old meters, which allow Hydro employees to conduct readings, but prevent them from completing new installations.

Ney wanted council to request a moratorium on installations in Oak Bay, but instead they passed a more modest motion to request B.C. Hydro to conduct a public consultation and information session in the community.

Hydro has not yet decided whether to act on council’s recommendation, but Olynyk said they are discussing what format such a session would take.

Other municipalities in the Capital Region have passed similar motions in recent months. Victoria council asked B.C. Hydro to explore an opt-out choice for consumers, and Colwood has called for a moratorium similar to the one Ney was seeking. In all cases, the motions are non-binding.

Over 6,000 meters have already been installed in Greater Victoria, Olynyk said, and the work will continue while B.C. Hydro attempts to address people’s fears.

“At the end of the day, to be connected to the grid, everybody needs a meter, but we will work with individual customers to address their concerns,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Residents who wish to have their smart meter installation delayed can call 1-888-495-2767 or email smartmeters@bchydro.com

editor@oakbaynews.com