So far throughout the province, the installation of smart meters has gone over about about as well as a lead zeppelin. While, much of B.C. which is covered by BC Hydro is fighting the smart metre wave, residents in the south interior including Castlegar, who are served by FortisBC have been spared thus far.
That may soon come to an end as FortisBC officially filed an application with the B.C. Utilities Commussion (BCUC) on July 26. The power company plans to install around 115,000 meters in the West Kootenay and the Okanagan.
"Last week we applied to the BCUC. So this is just the start of the regulatory process," said Neal Pobran, corporate communications advisor for FortisBC. "For any major project we do at Fortis we have to apply to BCUC. Advanced metering (smart meters) are no different. We'll go through the regulatory process which is public and transparent. People can get involved in that. That should take most of this year, we figure. We cannot proceed with this process without a positive decision from the commission."
Once the FortisBC application is approved by the BCUC, people will not be able to choose whether or not to have a smart meter installed.
"We're proposing this would go for our all our electricity customers," said Pobran. "We're not proposing an opt out in this application."
Pobran says the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is expected to save customers $19 million.
"They'll see the savings through cutting back on electricity theft and operational savings," he said. "Right now, we figure there is $3.7 million a year in electricity theft and all customers pay for that. Some other benefits are better power restoration. Right now we rely on customers to call us if there's an outage. With AMI we'll have a better indication where it's occurring. Also, customer service will be better because customers will know at near real time how much electricity they're using. "
When asked about health concerns regarding the smart meters, Pobran says the company is following the experts in the field.
"People like the BC cancer agency and provincial health officer both say these are safe," he said. "There's also a report on our website from an expert on wi-fi who says there's no problem with these advanced meters regarding safety."
Cliff Paluck, co-chair of the Kootenay chapter of Citizens for Safe Technology, said that people need to rally now to let the utilities commission now that smart meters shouldn't be allowed here.
"We expected that to happen," he said. "What we're doing as a group is we plan to intervene. When the BC Utilities Commission calls a hearing we'll be there."
Paluck encourages people to send their own letter to the commission and become involved in the process. To register go to www.bcuc.com/RegisterIndex.aspx.
"It's very advisable that those people who are concerned, write their submission to the BCUC so their voices can be heard in this decision making process," he said.
Paluck and the Citizens for Safe Technology have given presentations around the Castlegar region to both city council and the regional district warning of the dangers of smart meters and calling for more research.
"Roughly one third of the people exposed to this radio magnetic frequency will develop heart palpitations, insomnia, severe headaches. The list goes on and on," said Paluck, who urges people to do their own research on the subject. "There are people internationally speaking out against smart meters."
Alison Richter, director of policy, planning, and customer relations for the BCUC, told the Trail Times that the stand review procedure will involve a local public worksop - an information question and answer session.
"Then we do written hearings or oral public hearings. It all depends on what the utility proposes and what the interveners propose," she said.
Interveners could be private companies or individuals who register with the BCUC application process to be heard.