Eric Foster defends extension of meter installation

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, isn’t surprised public opposition has delayed smart meters.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, isn’t surprised public opposition has delayed smart meters.

B.C. Hydro’s deadline to install smart meters has been extended from Dec. 31, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2013 and one of the reasons is customer concerns preventing the corporation from installing all of the devices.

“There are people who don’t want them installed and it’s a matter of education,” said Foster, who supports the deadline extension.

“Hydro did a mass education program and addressed concerns but when there are individuals with concerns, you have to go back and work your way through it.”

Some people have claimed that microwave radiation exposure from the meters can create a range of health issues, while the utility will know what appliances a customer is using by monitoring the meter.

Hydro has denied those claims and Foster believes the devices are necessary.

“They aren’t a bad thing,” he said.

“The second someone hits a power pole and takes out the power, they know instantly where it is and they can respond.”

The other reasons provided for B.C. Hydro not meeting the Dec. 31, 2012 installation deadline are a shortage of qualified labour and equipment.

Hydro says it has installed 93 per cent or 1.73 million of the 1.87 million smart meters scheduled for B.C.

Leading up until Dec. 31, 2013, the utility says it will complete the final seven per cent of installations and address customer concerns.

The NDP wants the B.C. Utilities Commission to get involved after the original deadline was missed.

“This was a failure of public policy from the beginning,” said John Horgan, energy critic.

“The Liberals are clearly not up to the challenges facing British Columbians, so it’s time to get some help. I’d like to see the B.C. Utilities Commission invited back to the table to help explore what options are out there to satisfy concerned consumers that want another choice.”

According to Horgan, the Liberal government initiated the Clean Energy Act in 2010 with almost no debate among MLAs in the Legislature.

“The act exempted the $1 billion smart meter program from the independent oversight of the BCUC,” he said.