B.C. VIEWS: Regulator’s reading on smart meters

Utilities commission rejects claims of wireless scare-mongers, exposes their claims and commercial motivations

Sharon Noble protests BC Hydro's wireless meter program outside municipal convention in Vancouver

VICTORIA – Despite efforts to keep the smart meter “controversy” alive by repeating imaginary health claims, the end is near.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett has made what sounds like a final offer to holdouts. You want to keep your old mechanical meter, fill your boots. It’ll cost you an extra $35 a month, starting in December. If you insist on a “radio off” wireless meter, there will be a setup fee of $100 and a monthly fee of $20 to have someone collect the readings.

These charges are to be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission, the independent panel that smart meter opponents want to review BC Hydro’s whole smart grid project.

As it happens, the BCUC recently did just that for an application by FortisBC to install wireless meters for its Okanagan and Kootenay customers. The meters were approved, and the findings are instructive.

The BCUC report notes that it received “many” complaints about smart meter signals being added to existing radio frequency (RF) sources. Some used familiar scare rhetoric about “toxic microwave radiation” that’s promoted by people trying to make money by exploiting fear.

One of the experts retained by FortisBC was Dr. Yakov Shkolnikov, an electrical engineer with advanced degrees from Princeton and Cornell Universities. His testimony was not challenged by any of the lineup of opponents. A sample of his findings illustrates the absurdity of this whole discussion.

Shkolnikov calculated that a cell phone in use generates radio signals that reach 10 per cent of the international safety code limit. A microwave oven generates 2.3 per cent of the safe limit. A cordless phone: 1.25 per cent. A wi-fi signal: 0.0045 per cent.

(See chart below)

A bank of smart meters, not separated by a wall, registers 0.0019 per cent. The natural background RF level is 0.013 per cent. Note the decimal place. The level in the middle of a wilderness is nearly 10 times that received from a bank of meters.

BCUC staff added, for comparison, the radio signal level emitted by a human body. It’s 0.018 per cent. What this means is your spouse snoring beside you is a stronger source of RF than a whole wall of smart meters.

Experts put up by opponents didn’t fare so well. One was Jerry Flynn, a retired Canadian Forces officer from Kelowna who travels around taking readings, talking to elderly people about alleged hazards of meters, and making claims to the media about what he has called the single biggest threat to human health today.

The BCUC found his military experience not “relevant,” and his evidence frequently “incorrect, exaggerated and/or unsubstantiated.”

Then there was Curtis Bennett, who described himself as “chief science officer” for a company called Thermoguy. He spoke on behalf of West Kootenay Concerned Citizens. In a 2012 letter to the B.C. energy ministry, Bennett warned of the danger of smart meters triggering “molecular earthquakes.”

The BCUC panel wrote: “While Mr. Bennett has an electrician’s knowledge of electrical systems, it is clear that he is unqualified to give expert opinion evidence on the health effects of RF, exposure standards for RF, engineering, physics or geological phenomena such as earthquakes.”

Citizens for Safe Technology put up one Dr. Donald Maisch, who claimed to have experience with this issue in Australia.

The panel noted that Maisch runs EMFacts Consultancy, and agreed with FortisBC’s argument that “Dr. Maisch’s consulting livelihood depends upon public fears and concerns about RF exposure.”

Would you like this circus of quackery to be restaged over BC Hydro’s program, at your expense?

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com

BCUC chart

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: New air carrier sought for Qualicum Beach Airport

Island Express Air ends operation due to pandemic

Parksville rider to join alumni for modified Tour de Rock

Roberts pleased to again be involved in Canadian Cancer Society’s Cops for Cancer event

Qualicum Beach roundabout project would cost nearly $2M

Town to apply for funds to cover $1.79M of the total

Protesters in Parksville demand change to current B.C. forest practices

Approximately 50 people march along Island Highway

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

COVID-19 skill loss will hurt global economic output for rest of century: survey

About one in seven Canadian students satisfied with transition toward online learning

Woodgrove Centre posts plans to make masks and temperature checks mandatory

Nanaimo mall advises in letter to customers that rules will come into effect Monday, Sept. 21

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Motor home burns up at north Nanaimo intersection

No one hurt in incident Friday morning at old Island Highway, Rutherford Road and Mostar Road

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Nanaimo residents ticketed for putting garbage bins out early

Conservation officers say they issued seven tickets this week, as concerns about bears increase

Most Read