VICTORIA – People who insist on refusing new wireless electrical meters can keep their old mechanical meter as long as it lasts, if they pay a monthly fee, Energy Minister Bill Bennett announced Thursday.
Customers can keep their mechanical meters until they break down, their Measurement Canada accuracy seal expires or the customer relocates, the ministry said in a statement.
The mechanical meter option is added to an earlier compromise with BC Hydro customers who still don't have a digital smart meter, which transmits power consumption and status via radio signals. Customers can have a digital meter with its transmission function turned off, or keep their old meter, as long as they pay the cost of having the meter read manually.
Bennett said the cost of meter reading will be about $20 a month. Customers who accept a deactivated smart meter will also pay a fee of about $100 to have it adjusted.
The fee to keep a mechanical meter will be higher, because it will require a separate system to manually record and bill for power consumption, Bennett said.
NDP energy critic John Horgan said he is pleased that the proposed fees will be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission before being implemented. The opt-out provision should have been made available from the start, instead of rushing to meet the government's artificial deadline to install smart meters, Horgan said.
BC Hydro reports that 60,000 smart meter installations have been delayed due to customer requests, while 1.8 million or 96 per cent of customers now have a functioning smart meter.
Some people persist in the belief that the radio signals from smart meters are a health hazard, despite the fact that the periodic meter signals represent a tiny fraction of the radio frequency exposure from a mobile phone call.
Bennett said mechanical or "analog" meters are obsolete, and eventually every customer will have a smart meter, whether it is set to transmit or not.
"Bear in mind, when somebody's analog meter wears out, stops working or comes to the end of its useful life, there are no analog meters to reinstall," Bennett said. "You can't buy them anywhere."