Smart Meter debate is really about trust

For the longest time, I figured the mounting aversion to BC Hydro’s Smart Meter program was a plot by Alcan to sell more tinfoil.

For the longest time, I figured the mounting aversion to BC Hydro’s Smart Meter program was a plot by Alcan to sell more tinfoil.

Indeed this theory was reinforced at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities AGM where the tinfoiled local government delegates from Colwood succeeded in getting their anti-Smart Meter resolution passed by a substantial majority, even though the resolutions committee had attempted to bury it.

The successful resolution calls for “a moratorium on the mandatory installation of wireless Smart Meters until the major issues and problems identified regarding wireless Smart Meters are independently assessed.”

Colwood claims that BC Hydro is proceeding with its program even though it recognizes “there is active discussion and ongoing research into the possible health and environmental effects related to radio frequency signals.”

In a futile attempt to ward off convention paranoia about electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) emissions, BC Hydro issued a “fact sheet” informing delegates that four days of conventioneering would expose them to 4,500 minutes of wireless networks — the equivalent of standing next to a Smart Meter for more than 1,100 years.

Delegates were not in the mood for facts.

I was there for the vote and it was amusing to watch hundreds of delegates reject EMF-emitting Smart Meters by casting their votes remotely using their handheld, EMF-emitting voting tablets.

It was at this moment that I realized that either everyone in the hall was bonkers or that there is more to this feverish debate than fear of EMFs.

I sense that this debate is also about trust — or rather, the lack of it.

Former premier Gordon Campbell became a Smart Meter disciple after some poolside research on one of his Maui vacations. As we have discovered with Campbell’s HST fiasco, there was no stopping the man once he had persuaded himself of the merits of a particular course of action. My sources tell me that the moment Campbell got back to B.C. he directed Hydro to beginning implementing the smart meter program.

Typical of Campbell, there would be no oversight by the B.C. Utilities Commission, the arms-length regulatory body that is supposed to monitor and adjudicate Hydro’s activities. Nor would there be much in the way of two-way discourse with ratepayers about the mandatory installation of these meters.

As opposition mounts, BC Hydro PR continues to focus on program benefits such as: Smart Meters providing automated, real-time notification of power outages, the program helping to reduce electricity theft and Smart Meter conservation tools delivering direct energy savings to customers.

But, there is another agenda at play. I’m convinced Campbell was initially drawn to smart meters because they facilitate “time-of-use” billing that allows Hydro to charge a higher rate for power consumed at peak periods, like dinnertime.

Hydro and the post-Campbell Liberals say this won’t happen. They say “the current rate structures will stay in place.” But, I believe most British Columbians have little faith in this undertaking.

I guess it doesn’t really matter whether our angst is due to zombie death rays or post-Campbell trust deficit disorder. The reality is that a growing number of citizens are turning into Smart Meter NIMBYs.

The question becomes: How will this increasing angst be expressed? If some citizens actually stop Smart Meter installers from coming onto their property, the government’s crisis managers will be putting in a lot of overtime. M

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