Whistler's Jeremy Thom is sticking to his guns in his ongoing battle against BC Hydro and its switch to smart meters — even if it means paying more money to keep his old meter.
BC Hydro recently announced plans that would allow holdouts across the province to opt out using the new smart meters, which are controversial because they use microwave communications technology similar to cell phones to send data to the utility. One option would allow people to keep their existing meter, unless broken, and pay $35 per month for metering. Another option would allow people to switch to the smart meter and have the antenna turned off for a fee of $100, then pay $20 per month.
People can also opt to have a smart meter installed at no charge.
The new fees and options were available on Sept. 1 and the enrollment period continues to Dec. 1. BC Hydro is hoping to have 100 per cent of customers covered by one of the three options by the end of the enrollment period, and for the project to be completed in the field by March 2014.
For Thom, however, the issue is far from settled. He's willing to pay an extra fee to keep a wireless antenna away from his unit — just not what BC Hydro is planning to charge.
"As far as I know, the BC Utilities Commission hasn't confirmed (the rates) and the prices for opting out aren't set in stone," he said. "Hopefully the BCUC will have those prices lowered. I know that in other places that have done this the price for opting out hasn't been nearly as high, and costs are a third of what BC Hydro is trying to charge."
Pique confirmed with the BCUC that they have not ruled on the prices published by BC Hydro.
Thom pointed out that BC Hydro only bills every two months and as a result the bill for a meter reading is actually $70 for people who opt out completely. As well, he says the cost doesn't make sense in his case, where there are 10 units in his building that wish to opt out.
"Are they really going to charge all of us $700 to check the meters? They're all right there in a cluster on the wall, you could read the numbers off in ten minutes.
"It's also something they used to do for free before, it was included in the rates. It just feels like they're trying to make a profit off of us."
Thom has been following recent BC Hydro events closely, including news that rates may need to increase by another 26 per cent in the next few years to pay for infrastructure upgrades that have been neglected for several years. In his view, the $1 billion smart meter program is another example of mismanagement. "Now customers are paying for their bad decisions and losses," he said. "They should accept responsibility for their bad decisions and the public rejection of the smart meter program."
Thom is also supportive of a class action against BC Hydro launched by a woman on Salt Spring Island after the utility installed a smart meter at her home against her wishes and then refused to remove it. Court documents state that she was concerned by the health risks, while BC Hydro said it had to replace the meter because the glass on the old meter was broken.