Posted on 05 July 2012 by Keith Lacey
Town of Osoyoos council is not willing to endorse a request by FortisBC asking for a letter of support to bring smart meters to almost 2,000 customers in this community.
Instead, council voted Tuesday to support a staff recommendation that FortisBC be sent a letter that informs the utility company that given conflicting issues, information and intensity of technical information needed, that the installation of smart meters in Osoyoos is best left to the business relationship between the company and its customers.
Council did add a provision that an opt- out clause be included in any business related to smart meters by FortisBC for its customers in Osoyoos and more information be provided to council relating to time-of-use provisions, which would allow customers to save time and conserve energy if smart meters were ever installed in this community.
Chief administrative officer Barry Romanko gave councillors 10 options to consider, ranging from sending a letter providing support for FortisBC to not acting on the request until more information and clarity is forthcoming in relation to this matter.
Bob Gibney, a regional supervisor for FortisBC, made a presentation to council one month ago asking council to support an initiative by the public utility company to bring smart meters to its residential and business customers in and around Osoyoos.
Since that presentation, Mayor Stu Wells said the public response has been overwhelmingly negative with dozens of people calling, sending emails or writing letters showing their vehement opposition to smart meters – which is officially called the Advanced Metering Infrastructure program by FortisBC.
“The people of Osoyoos have let it be known they don’t want anything to do with these smart meters,” said Wells.
When former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell first talked about bringing smart meters to this province, every presentation and discussion centred around a time-of-use provisions, which would save customers significant amounts of money when they reduced their energy consumption during certain times of the day, said Wells.
Those provisions are not being considered by FortisBC in their current negotiations with municipalities across the South Okanagan, which is unfortunate, he said.
“It has quickly become a save-money program for the utility,” he said.
The B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) will eventually rule on whether FortisBC can bring smart meters to town, not town council, said Wells.
“It really is not a Town of Osoyoos issue,” he said. “It’s between FortisBC and the BCUC … however, the people of Osoyoos want this council to take a position.”
The public response has been overwhelmingly negative to the concept of smart meters in large part because people don’t know about or are afraid of electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) technology used to gather information from the meters.
No one on town staff or any member of council is an expert with this technology and it will be up to FortisBC management to make the efforts to inform the public and try and sell the technology, said Wells.
He would never support any program that doesn’t include a time-of-use provision or opt- out clause for residents who oppose the installation of smart meters, even if the BCUC does allow FortisBC to start a smart meter program in this community, said Wells.
Several other members of council agreed.
Coun. Sue McKortoff said many local residents she has talked to “are scared to death” about the possibility of smart meters being installed on their property.
“We definitely don’t want to force anyone into having these things, that’s my opinion,” she said.
Coun. C.J.Rhodes said the province’s major power suppliers, B.C. Hydro and FortisBC, have not provided enough information about technical concerns and have strayed away from time-of-use provisions, which is swaying public opinion on smart meters in a very negative way.
“I have an increasingly high level of concern with FortisBC and B.C. Hydro because I don’t think they’ve got this right,” he said. “I just think they got it all wrong.”
Millions of residents in hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have successfully adopted smart meters programs because there are time-of-use provisions which allow customers to save significant dollars by conserving energy and reducing energy use during peak hours, he said.
FortisBC is a huge company which is in the business of making money and the lack of information they have provided municipal councillors and customers in relation to something as controversial as smart meters is worrisome, said Rhodes,
Romanko reiterated that this issue is “a very complex … and very divisive issue” and staff could not make any recommendation that would see council endorse the request by FortisBC to support this program.