BC Hydro has apparently concluded that the easiest way to install 1.85 million Smart Meters by the end of this year is to treat us all like blithering idiots.
The only thing missing from the Crown utility’s spin cycle is a copy of “Smart Metering for Dummies.”
Thousands of Hydro customers — who never asked to have these omniscient lifestyle monitors attached to their homes — are discovering that these hummers have a singular ability to produce outrageously high utility bills even when power consumption patterns remain constant. (see last week’s Editor’s Note at mondaymag.com/opinion/148966215.html)
I have been trying to accurately determine how many Hydro customers are up in arms, specifically how many have refused to have the meters installed. But, Hydro doesn’t want to come clean because the Crown utility — and the provincial government — don’t want to acknowledge that they have a $1 billion customer relations disaster on their hands.
Two weeks ago in this space, I estimated that more than 10,000 Hydro customers had stopped Hydro’s subcontractor, Corix Utilities, from installing new meters. I was flooded with emails from readers who said I had grossly under-estimated the public pushback.
One North Vancouver resident said: “We have refused to allow Corix to install Smart Meters in our building. An installer told us we had been placed on a UTC (“unable to complete”) list along with 40,000 other households in the province.”
BC Hydro apologist Greg Alexis informed me: “The list you may have heard about from your contact consists of a number of reasons as to why BC Hydro isn’t able to install a meter at these particular residences. For example, it could include a meter being located too high, requiring a ladder to complete installation, a meter being obstructed and the installer being unable to access it safely, or a meter being surrounded by other hazardous conditions.”
So, it boils down to this? Hydro doesn’t have ladders tall enough? Pit bulls are chained at meter sites?
Seemingly oblivious to the absurdity of these excuses, Alexis then answered a question I had not asked: “The most accurate figure we can provide you in regards to the number of customers who have contacted us with concerns about having a Smart Meter is approximately one per cent … of all customers (approx 1.85 million).”
All that tells me is that 18,500 customers have actually managed to get through to Hydro on the phone. Have you tried it? I did by following the website prompts to Hydro’s page titled “Prepare for Installation at Your Home” and called the Corix number provided.
My call was immediately transferred to a Hydro line and a disembodied voice warned me my wait time to reach a real human was probably going to be “45 minutes.” Care to guess what percentage of frustrated Hydro customers give up in disgust at this point?
Hydro’s PR guy also said the one per cent of customers who have “contacted” Hydro is par for the course. “Typically, other jurisdictions see a refusal rate of up to five per cent.”
Apples and oranges. Hydro simply does not want to ’fess up when it comes to the numbers of angry customers who have turned away Corix installers.
So, I’m content with the 40,000 figure knowing it could climb to more than 90,000 or five per cent. And that qualifies as a customer relations disaster in my books. M