Louise Power was shocked to see a new smart meter installed at her Prince George home on Monday afternoon.
After a phone call to B.C. Hydro and placing a sign next to the existing analog meter, Power thought she had made it perfectly clear she didn't want a smart meter. After reading a story in the Citizen last week, she was under the impression the power company wouldn't be installing the new devices without permission from the homeowner.
Power wasn't home when a contractor came to install the device, but an adult relative was present. Power said the relative told the contractor that he wasn't in a position to make decisions about the property because he didn't own the home.
"He said, 'I'm not the homeowner.' They said it didn't matter, they were removing it," she said. "There was an obvious objection to [the removal of the meter] because there was a sign taped right beside it."
B.C. Hydro spokesman Bob Gammer said the power corporation has a different record of the conversation - they said the resident of the home gave permission to exchange the meter.
Power stands by her relative's recollection of the event, but said even if he did give permission he wasn't the owner and wasn't in a position to provide consent. Gammer said the contractors only asked if the man lived in the home, not if he was the owner.
The sign next to the meter was ignored because B.C. Hydro believed it had permission and because the letter wasn't signed.
"If it's signed then we know who is saying don't put something there," Gammer said. "But having talked to this fellow they felt that this sign didn't matter because the person who said he was living there said, 'go ahead.' "
Power has three objections to the new technology, which B.C. Hydro said is mandatory for all consumers. First and foremost, she's upset that it was foisted upon customers without any consultation. She's also worried about the waste of replacing meters that were working fine and she still has questions about the safety of the devices.
Power is concerned B.C. Hydro isn't factoring in the entire environmental impact for power-saving initiatives like the smart meter and new lights and appliances.
"Where are the old lights going? And where are the old meters going? And where are the old refrigerators going?" she asked. "They're going to the landfill, so how is that ecologically sound?"
Power initially logged her objections about the smart meter through a phone call a long time ago and received a package of information in return. She said all her interactions with customer service agents have been pleasant, but the power company didn't do enough to convince her the meter was both needed and safe.
"They could have done it in a different way and I think I would have been happier," Power said.
The new meters are expected to cost just under $1 billion to install, but B.C. Hydro said it will lead to cost savings down the road. According to the power company, the meters will be able to reduce the amount of power theft in the system and report outages quicker.
Most homes in the province have had smart meters installed over the past few years, but some holdouts remain. Some of the opponents cite health concerns due to the wireless technology in the meters, but B.C. Hydro said those concerns are unfounded. Others have reported fires around the new meters, but the Fire Chiefs' Association of B.C. said there have been no confirmed links between the new meters and fires.
The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union also objects to the plan due to the potential job losses for meter readers.
Initially the goal was to have smart meters installed everywhere by the end of 2012, but there are still about seven per cent of B.C. Hydro's 1.8 million customers who are holding out. Locally more than 95 per cent of smart meters have been installed.
The new deadline to have the meters installed is the end of this year and Gammer said BC Hydro will continue to have discussions with the remaining hold outs.
In conversations with a B.C. Hydro official on Tuesday, Power said she asked to have the smart meter removed until she could make an informed decision about the device, that the power company write her a formal letter of apology and that other people who object to the smart meters are treated fairly.
Power's computer has also been acting up since the meter was installed and if the problems continue she would like B.C. Hydro to pay to have it examined.
"If I had a choice I would not be a B.C. Hydro customer," Power said. "I'd take my business elsewhere - but I don't have a choice in the province of B.C."