VICTORIA – The smart meter installation van arrived on my street last week, as BC Hydro’s smart grid project heads toward the halfway mark.
This system will not only detect outages, electricity loss and theft, it enables a voluntary time-of-use system where users can get a discount by shifting consumption to low-peak times. You could even set up wind or solar generation that the meter would record and subtract from your bill.
But apparently no one wants to talk about that. Black Press papers continue to run letters with exaggerated or false claims that stoke baseless fear of radio waves.
Where is this coming from? I’m grateful to the anonymous smart-meter foe who started sending me updates from “Citizens for Safe Technology,” a loose collection of U.S. and Canadian activists that claims to include doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
Not much is professional about the Canadian content on their website.
A video starts with a juvenile union parody showing executives plotting to sell BC Hydro to General Electric. Then it moves to an apparently serious interview with Bill Vander Zalm, who expands on his earlier conspiracy theory about the harmonized sales tax being part of a European Union plot for world domination.
Vander Zalm asserts that smart meters and appliances create such a powerful surveillance network, “they’ll even know what you’re cooking.”
There are those who claim smart meters can tell what channel your TV is on, but this is the first I’ve heard about them detecting whether you’re having eggs or oatmeal for breakfast.
And who might “they” be?
“The big picture is of course that we’re moving to globalization,” Vander Zalm intones. “Eventually we’ll be governed out of Brussels, Belgium or someplace like that. And this all ties into that. They can monitor what’s happening anywhere in the world. It’s Big Brother. We’ll be totally controlled.”
He stops just short of what I’ll call the Full Tinfoil, a belief that these radio waves control minds directly.
Wildlife artist Robert Bateman also makes an ass of himself in a brief video, where he describes hiring someone to come in and detect “hot” wiring in his Saltspring Island mansion. (A surprising number of self-appointed smart meter experts sell measuring and “shielding” services.)
A reader sent me a local newspaper commentary by Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, basically a vague summary of NDP talking points about smart meters being too expensive and a possible health threat.
This is interesting, because the City of Nelson owns its own power utility, which started installing wireless meters in 2004. They finished last year, with no protest.
I asked Mungall why. She was on the city council that chose a different model, a “drive-by” meter. They broadcast readings every 15 seconds and still need meter readers, who no longer have get out of their trucks.
BC Hydro’s meters signal only three or four times a day, but one of the often-repeated false claims about them is that they secretly transmit much more often with some sort of damaging energy pulses. And yet these granola-loving West Kootenay folks cheerfully endure a 24/7 bombardment of what are essentially brief cell phone signals.
Mungall said Nelson council specifically rejected a smart grid system, “because of the cost.” Somehow retaining meter readers saves the city money.
She noted that rural parts of her constituency are serviced by BC Hydro, and some people are very concerned.
I’ll bet they are. Not just in West Kootenay, but a few other remote areas known for production of B.C.’s number one cash crop.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com