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Smart meters now in 70 per cent of Lower Mainland homes

BC Hydro smart meters are now installed in a majority of homes in the Lower Mainland. - File
BC Hydro smart meters are now installed in a majority of homes in the Lower Mainland.
— image credit: File

Smart meters are now installed in more than two-thirds of the households in the Lower Mainland.

BC Hydro officials say more than 720,000 meters are now installed in the region with close to 300,000 homes still to go.

The penetration rate is about 90 per cent already in Burnaby, Richmond, Delta, Langley and Chilliwack, according to Hydro statistics.

The new wireless meters are installed in about 74 per cent of Vancouver homes, 71 per cent in Surrey and White Rock,  63 per cent in Abbotsford and Mission, 61 per cent on the North Shore and 28 per cent in the Coquitlam/Maple Ridge areas.

Overall, more than 1.2 million smart meters are installed province-wide and officials say the rollout of their smart power grid is continuing without difficulty.

"We have had some challenges," said Gary Murphy, chief project officer for the smart metering program.

The Crown corporation continues to field complaints about high bills, but Murphy said in many cases customers were not correctly comparing to the equivalent billing period and many were complaining about bills for usage that actually pre-dated installation of their smart meter.

BC Hydro has pulled 1,057 smart meters from service for testing at the direction of the meter manufacturer, which cited concern about a possible flaw with some meters during manufacturing.

Murphy said at least 700 have now been tested and just 0.5 per cent were found to be outside Measurement Canada's accuracy standard of three per cent.

Bills are being adjusted for affected homeowners, resulting in credits ranging from five to 10 per cent for consumption while the errant smart meter was operational.

About two per cent of households continue to oppose installation of smart meters, according to Hydro communications manager Cindy Verschoor.

Opponents of the program argue smart meters pose a possible health hazard from adding an extra layer of radio frequency radiation and numerous B.C. city councils have passed resolutions urging Hydro to allow customers to opt out.

"It's really not viable to offer an opt-out," Verschoor said, but added Hydro has still not decided how it will respond to hold-outs.

Nobody in B.C. has yet opted to relocate their meter – at their own expense – to a more distant spot on their property, she added.

The B.C. Utilities Commission previously rejected smart meter opponents' request for an injunction halting the program, although that decision is under appeal.

Newly released tests conducted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control found a bank of 10 Hydro smart meters forced to all send signals at once – something that doesn't happen in practice – results in exposure of about four microwatts per square centimeter at a range of 30 cm, compared to seven microwatts for a microwave oven, 9.6 for a cellphone and 15.6 for a baby monitor.

Time-averaged over a day, because the meters only actually operate one minute per day, the tests found exposure from a 10-meter bank in normal operation would be 0.0028 microwatts per square centimeter at 30 cm, dropping to 0.0012 at a range of three meters.

The BCCDC report said time-averaged RF exposure from smart meters at all of those ranges was "low" – less than 0.001 per cent of Health Canada's safety limit of 600 microwatts per square centimeter of continuous exposure for general public areas.

According to the opposition group Citizens For Safe Technology, 48 B.C. municipalities – including Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and White Rock – have called for either a smart meter moratorium or an opt-out provision.

 

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