2016-03-02 Why the massive push by BCHydro all of a sudden?

  • Over the last couple of weeks I have received hundreds of emails from people who received  “the” letter from hydro, telling them they had no choice but to allow Hydro to replace their expired analogs with a smart meter, with or without the transmitter. The push from hydro has increased dramatically all of a sudden. My suspicious mind is wondering if Hydro is concerned that when the class action is certified that they will be told by the court to stop installing smeters on homes where the owner wishes to keep his/her analog.  Until there is certification there is nothing that can be done to stop Hydro’s actions short of an injunction (as I understand it.  I am not a lawyer but this is what the lawyer told me.) An injunction carries the risk of big financial penalties should the class action not be certified.  There could be some other reason for this massive push, along with the continuation of mis-information that is being told. See below a form letter that many members have forwarded to me. I have made a few notes to refute some assertion.

 

  • People in California are able to have smeters removed and NEW analogs installed, although like Hydro, they try to put digital meters on, and like Hydro has done, calling them “digital analogs”.  There is no such thing. It is either digital or analog.  They charge $127 to make the exchange and $14 a month to read the meter, although this is being fought. Some utilities in Calif. charge nothing, others charge $5.

http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=7cb4ab8b-8d16-4cdc-8282-26f23ab9d6e2&preview=true&m=1114179096387&id=preview

 

  • $$meters in Guam might be running fast but there is no way to test or to calibrate. Some have raised concerns about the factors ITRON and Hydro use to determine consumption

“First Green Solutions, the energy consulting firm who raised a complaint against GPA, maintains that GPA is using an incorrect equation to calculate how much energy a ratepayer is saving, this is referred to as a power factor.”

http://www.pacificnewscenter.com/business-pnc/utilities/8147

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Letters:

From “Michael”  at BCHydro

Thank you for your February 28 email about the planned meter exchange at your home. A copy of your email forwarded to me by Daren Sanders. I hope I am able to address your concerns.

Following the announcement of the Meter Choices Program in July 2013, BC Hydro built a stock of old meters with future Measurement Canada seal expiration dates from those removed from customers’ homes as smart meters were installed. Prior to this, old meters removed from customers’ homes had been recycled.

For this reason, BC Hydro’s stock of old meters is varied. It consisted of both analog and digital meters with seals expiring in 2016 to 2021. This was to ensure as many customers as possible could be provided with a replacement legacy meter.

We don’t have any legacy meters left in stock, and we aren’t buying or re certifying any more.
They are available. What is the advantage of having a transmitter-off meter over an analog? Both have to be manually read. Why the push?

Our old meters have to be removed from service when they no longer meet all of the necessary requirements. The Measurement Canada certification for our meter at your service address, as you are aware, will soon expire.
What requirements? I was told by Measurements Canada some time ago that there are no new requirements and they don’t care what type of meter is used so long as it is accurate. That is Measurement Canada’s only concern.

We’ve always said that if an old meter breaks or the accuracy seal expires we would provide a replacement old meter as long as existing stock lasted, and that once the stock depleted Meter Choices customers who wished to continue in the program would receive a radio-off meter replacement.
The energy minister said that no one would be forced to take a smart meter. The energy minister’s word overrules Hydro’s.  Are you telling me the energy minister lied to me?

Since you have a legacy meter that needs replacing, it will be replaced with a radio-off meter.

How are smart meter radios turned off?

Radio-off meters are smart meters with the radio turned off.  They do not send any radio signals and they have to be read in person.

Our qualified staff turns radios off by updating the computer chip within the meter and disabling the radio. Once this is done the meter display scrolls through to a display that says, “RF OPT OUT”.

We’ll only convert a radio-off meter back into a standard meter at your request or when an account is closed. We can’t turn the radios back on remotely – we have to visit in person.
But with a handheld computer device, the size of a iphone, a button can be pushed without our ever knowing.

You can find a study done by Planetworks consulting, confirming that Radio-off meters emit no radio frequency here:

https://www.bchydro.com/content/dam/BCHydro/customer-portal/documents/projects/smart-metering/bc-hydro-meter-choices-program-radio-off-testing.pdf
These can be turned back on with flip of a switch. Given the lies that Hydro has told and the tricks/deception Hydro has pulled, why should we trust them not to flip that switch without telling us.

Why are legacy meters (analog and digital) not being re-certified?

This is due to the following reasons:

  • there are too few old meters left to practically meet Measurement Canada’s sampling requirements. Each group of meters is randomly sampled, and the specific meter selected through the random sample process must be tested. If a meter already removed from service was selected for testing, all the meters in that group would fail automatically and would have to be removed from service. This process would dramatically reduce the inventory of legacy meters that BC Hydro has.
    The sample is small because Hydro destroyed each analog as it was taken off the home. Perfectly good analogs with many working years left. What a waste of money.
  • Measurement Canada accuracy requirements have become more stringent since the introduction of new metering technology. As a result, even if it were possible to obtain an appropriate random sample, the likelihood of an old meter passing the more stringent accuracy requirements is very low.
    Measurements Canada denies this. They say we can keep our analogs as far as they are concerned.
  • Sampling and testing meters is a costly process and those costs would have to be borne by the customers requesting the accommodation, rather than being passed on to all customers.
    It’s a lot cheaper than the $555 per smeter. Also, those costs are already in the rates. What if the customer is willing to pay for the re-certification of the meter or for a new analog already certified?

Are the lithium batteries in our smart meters (standard and radio-off) safe?

Since 2011 we have used Centron OpenWay meters manufactured by Itron to serve our residential customers. Just like pace makers, clocks and cameras, these meters contain lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are used in critical devices because they have a long life span.
I can’t believe that the lithium batteries in pacemakers and clocks are the same as those in smeters. Neither are they exposed to the environmental elements, like rain, dust, wind and neither are they exposed to sparks and high heat, but smeters are.

Lithium batteries must meet the safety standards detailed in IEC 60086-4:2014 which, “specifies tests and requirements for primary lithium batteries to ensure their safe operation under intended use and reasonably foreseeable misuse.” These standards were set by the International Electrotechnical Commission, an international standards organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. We have confirmed with our meter vendor that the batteries in use in our meters meet these standards.
This doesn’t mean they are safe. If they are so safe why won’t airlines carry them in storage?

 

There are 1.9 million smart meters in operation in British Columbia today, and they have proven to work safely and reliably in all conditions in their four years of use. Like all grid equipment, our meters pass strict safety testing before they are installed in the field.
Not true. These meters have not been certified safe by any independent electrical engineer or agency. Ask them why they haven’t had them certified by CSA as all other electrical appliances must be. There is a loophole in the BC Safety Standards Act that allows utilities to use uncertified equipment but my bet is this loophole was written before any of Hydro’s electrical equipment was on our homes. This exemption must be changed because lives and property are at risk from these fire hazards.

 

How does our Meter Choices fees compare?

Our fees were approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission. They recover the cost of providing options and differ from the fees in other jurisdictions because operating costs vary between utilities and metering programs offset different business costs.

FortisBC, which also operates in B.C., was told by the BCUC to follow our model, recovering the incremental (addition) cost of providing non-communicating meters from the customers who opted not to take standard smart meters. Their fees differ from ours because they have different operating costs.
BCUC told Fortis it had to offer an opt out, and the energy minister felt trapped into allowing those who still had analogs a similar opt out.  Hydro is saying that Fortis must be more efficient than Hydro??  They charge about ¼ the fees.

 Other utilities, like Vermont, are making all their customers pay the cost of offering choices rather than recovering the costs just from those who want options. And others only recover partial costs, for instance Hydro Quebec’s opt-out fees only recover the cost of manual meter reading.
BC Hydro is charging the highest opt out fees in North America. Many places in the US allow people to keep their analogs permanently at no cost.

 

What type of meter access do we need?

One of the conditions of our service is ensuring there’s free and clear access to our equipment. When you request service from BC Hydro you agree to the terms and conditions of our Electric Tariff, including the obligation to provide access to your property so that we can read, maintain or exchange the BC Hydro meter. If we are denied access to our meter, or prevented from completing a planned exchange, a $65.00 failed installation charge will be added.
Our Charter rights guarantee that no government or govt agency can force us to use something that for which a reasonable person would have concerns for safety.

The fee has been approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission. It ensures the expense of sending a crew to the property is recovered from the customer who prevents access, rather than all customers. Further, section 9.5 of the Electric Tariff states that preventing or obstructing access can eventually lead to service disconnection.
The Tariff is the unilateral contract written by Hydro, and in this case there was, no doubt, great pressure from the government to get the rates approved.

All our installers are fully qualified, carry photo ID and follow required safety protocol. An electrician is not required.  Just like an electrical socket in your home, a properly functioning meter socket should be able to accommodate meter exchanges. The exchange process is similar to unplugging and then plugging in an appliance.
There have been ill-prepared, poorly trained contract workers who have caused major damages.  Pulling a “live” electrical meter is nothing like unplugging an electrical socket. The exchange of meters is done with the service on and it is against CSA practices to do this . This is dangerous in the extreme. In many cases when appliances and electronics have been damaged or homes burned, Hydro has refused to accept responsibility.

To access a copy of the Electric Tariff, please go to bchydro.com and search Electric Tariff.

Where can you find more information?

If you have any further questions about the meter exchange, please call us at 1 800 409 8199.

Sincerely,

Michael

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RE: meter # xxxxxxxx

Dear Mr. Sanders,

I have received the stock reply from your department regarding my first email. It is most unsatisfactory.

While I thank you for forwarding my email, I must insist on a few things.

First of all, without proof except for the random statement made with graphics here, I am supposed to believe that my meter will be ‘expiring’ at the end of 2016.

I do not consent to a digital meter being installed. If I had wanted the ‘radio-off smart meter choice I would have chosen that. I have been paying a premium to keep my meter, which is perfectly functional. When the ‘choices’ program came into effect, I CHOSE to keep my analog meter instead of the other options.

Smart meters have shown themselves to be unreliable to a large degree and a huge waste of money for the province. As well as catching fire in a number of occasions. I have friends who are firefighters who have spoken to me about them.

Also, to quote our provincial government has stated that we will not be forced to change our meters. I quote:

“Individual home owners who had not yet had a smart meter installed on their home, would not have to have one.

“BC Hydro may be contacting those ‘hold outs’ one last time and if you say ‘no’ and do not consent – that is the end of it. You will not be ‘forced’ into having one or be in fear of it being installed when you are not home.”

Asked for clarification, Hogg referred to a press release and a Jan. 23 op-ed piece issued by Coleman.

‘BC Hydro will not install a new meter without the homeowner’s consent’ –that’s the key message,” Hogg said.

Furthermore, I insist on a phone call and an appointment being made. My meter is available to read, but there is a lot of construction on the street and next door is a construction site with their trucks using my driveway. I can make arrangements. if I know when they are coming.

And I repeat, I will only accept an analog meter on my home.

Sincerely

X

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Newsletter prepared by Sharon Noble

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”  Albert Einstein