Since the B.C. government doesn't appear to care what voters think of their mandatory "smart" meter program, some are likely going to take matters into their own hands and choose to live off the power grid.
And good for them. They have that right.
Should the idea go viral, the government revenue stream will be in trouble, along with its ailing Crown corporation, BC Hydro, which stands to gain from having people on the power grid. Hydro netted $589 million for fiscal 2011.
With huge advancements in alternative energy technology, living off the grid isn't actually all that difficult or inconvenient. While we don't yet appear to have cold fusion or Tesla generators nailed down, there are plenty of ways to power your home or workplace, like with solar and wind power, the two most common sources. Many of these technologies are tax deductible.
And with the threat of increasing utilities rates—Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman has assured us that smart meters are not a ploy to implement time-of-use billing, despite the fact that this is exactly what has been happening everywhere in the world where smart meters are introduced—cutting your cable to the grid becomes even more desirable. Approximately 180,000 homes in the U.S. are off the grid.
Once this trend catches on, utility companies will counter by telling customers that they can better utilize these alternative technologies by selling power back to the companies (net metering), once the global smart grid is in place, if only they would stay on the grid. But there seems to be little benefit to the customer with such a scheme considering the low buy-back rates. It's better to just get a clean break from seemingly authoritarian power utilities, such as BC Hydro.
Don't think for one minute that you have to be a country bumpkin to be able to do this. Even urban dwellers can chop their hydro lines and set up green energy homes; although, there are more limitations within cities.
What makes Merritt unique from other towns is its high frequency of sunny days and its abundance of strong wind. Whether it's solar panels on your roof or a propeller-sized wind turbine in your back yard, you can make this happen.
Unfortunately, the whole deal is very expensive (about $40,000 for a wind/solar combo pack), but it won't take long to begin making that money back, getting back to the land, and, more importantly, announcing your electrical independence to the world. There is also the option of micro-hydro (run-of-the-river), which property owners with running streams on their land can benefit from. Once you are set up with some of these, it becomes easier to get off of the grid completely, by eliminating gas heating and municipal water. And as opposed to the B.C. government's touted Clean Energy Act, living off grid is completely green and a legitimate way of reducing your consumption, as well as helping the environment. If the Clean Energy Act were anything it claimed to be, it would subsidize off-grid technology for regular Joes.
There are plenty of guidebooks and instruction online, or available at the public library, which show the pros and cons of getting off the grid. For a resource-rich region such as the Nicola Valley, gridless living is definitely worthwhile for Merrittonians to investigate. The City of Merritt could even get involved.