Hydro needs to get smarter on meters

Kamloops Daily News
October 26, 2011 01:00 AM

As the world struggles to find ways to lessen use of fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fears and tension arise.

In other words, it's not easy being green.

Wind towers are thought by some to create certain audio resonances that can drive people to distraction and cause health concerns.

Many B.C. voters resent the carbon tax and the 5.5 cents a litre it adds to the price of gasoline.

And then there are smart meters.

Opponents of BC Hydro's program to install meters in every B.C. home came out 150 strong to a forum Monday evening to register concerns about the devices already being installed in Kamloops homes.

Those concerns appear to boil down to privacy and health issues.

On the first, B.C. residents must rely on assurances from the Crown corporation. But it can do more on that front, perhaps learning from sibling B.C. Lottery Corp.

In 2010, soon after B.C. Lotteries' online gaming portal went live, the system crashed, breaching the privacy of a handful of clients.

In the begrudging mea culpa and fix that followed, one of the things the lottery corporation did was hire a named, third-part firm to test the integrity of its system.

On its website, B.C. Hydro claims it utilizes a firm to do "ethical hacking testing" of its system to assure privacy. But it could expand that by bringing in an independent firm to ensure the testing is working, with a public release of the results.

It would appear, however, the main focus of opponents is electromagnetic radiation.

B.C.'s chief medical health officer has issued a statement on electromagnetic fields. In brief: "the consensus of public health practitioners is that at current exposure levels these electromagnetic fields do not constitute a threat to the health of the public."

In March this year, the California Council on Science and Technology found that smart meters result in much lower radio frequency exposure than microwaves and cellphones. It also found scientific studies have not identified or confirmed health impacts from these emissions.

The report also noted, however, the words "when properly installed and maintained."

It recommended an independent review to determine if meters are installed and operating consistent with information provided by the utility.

BC Hydro tells us meters will emit for no more than one minute a day, in four to six bursts. This, too, is a statement that residents need more assurance on through independent testing.

Study after study has shown energy savings from meters. In one of the most recent, sponsored by the Environmental Defence Fund in the United States, savings in household energy of about two per cent a year, a very conservative figure, equalled consumption of Utah and Colorado.

B.C. needs smart meters, the carbon tax and other innovative ways to save energy. But BC Hydro should do more to sponsor independent reviews of its system, both in privacy and to ensure meters stand up to emission claims through third-party testing.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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