Opponents of BC Hydro's wireless smart meters are scrambling to quickly assemble enough people willing to be part of a planned class-action lawsuit they hope delivers a permanent opt-out from the program.
Victoria resident Sharon Noble, with the group Citizens for Safe Technology, said success in convincing a judge to certify the class action may hinge on how many people take part.
She estimated Wednesday that 100 to 150 people are registered – a start she called slow – but added hundreds more sign-ups are likely in progress.
Given the number of people who have blocked smart meter installation or had one installed against their wishes, she said, it would be surprising if thousands don't join the lawsuit.
"The courts would be very influenced by having a large number," Noble said, adding a judge could soon begin considering whether to certify the class action.
"The more people we have signed on by then, the more likely the courts would look on this as being a very significant movement, as opposed to a movement of a handful."
About 60,000 households have refused smart meters or less than four per cent of all BC Hydro customers.
BC Hydro has not yet issued its response to the claim filed July 25 on behalf of representative plaintiff Nomi Davis.
It demands free choice "without extortive fees, coercion or conditions designed to intimidate."
Registering with the lawsuit costs $100.
The provincial government has indicated those who still have analog power meters they want to keep will be able to pay around $20 a month extra to continue manual meter readings.
Opponents aren't happy with the fees or Hydro indications that smart meters may still replace analog ones as they break down.
They also say those with smart meters should have the ability to turn off wireless transmissions.
"The opt-out option that Hydro is offering needs to be a legitimate one," White Rock resident Linda Ewart said. "What they need to say is 'If you don't want one of these meters, you don't need to have them.'"
Another concern over choice is what happens when someone moves to a new home and a smart meter is already installed.
Many objectors claim health concerns or sensitivity to radio-frequency waves, even though third-party tests have found emissions from smart meters are low compared to other sources.
BC Hydro officials say the lead plaintiff's analog meter was broken and had to be replaced for safety reasons.
“BC Hydro will work through the judicial process to explain why we are obligated to replace a customer’s meter when there is potential for a safety hazard," said Greg Reimer, executive vice-president of transmission and distribution, in a statement.
He said both the B.C. Court of Appeal and B.C. Utilities Commission have previously dismissed smart meter legal challenges and that Hydro has "acted at all times within the law."