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Canada: No smart meter opt-outs from BC Hydro

Should consumers be able to opt out of getting smart meters? In May, the Maine Public Utilities Commission decided to allow this for an up-front fee of $20-$40, plus monthly fees of up to $12. And the California PUC is reviewing the opt-out proposal it requested from PG&E, in a proceeding that will last up to 18 months.

But this week, in Canada, a leading utility has decided not to permit opt-outs…

On July 6 the Vancouver Globe and Mail reported that BC Hydro (the utility serving British Columbia) will not permit smart meter opt-outs.

This move is in response to some consumers’ health concerns about radio frequency emissions from smart meters. Gary Murphy, chief project officer for BC Hydros $930-million smart meter rollout, told the newspaper: “We clearly don’t believe there is a health concern.”

Still, to accommodate consumer requests, BC Hydro will remind consumers with smart meter concerns that the utility offers an existing option allowing customers to relocate meters on their properties at their own cost. This option is available to almost any customer of any utility under typical utility rules.

How much does meter relocation cost? A spokesperson for the opt-out advocacy group Vancouver’s Citizens Against Unsafe Emissions claims it could be “up to $10,000.” But Central Maine Power estimated the cost of relocating a meter to the top of a nearby utility pole at $457.

Given the lack of evidence of actual health effects of smart meter radio frequency emissions, it;’s unlikely that BC Hydro will get any takers for its meter relocation offer. The Environmental Defense Fund might say this is a good thing — since they, like many others, believe smart meter opt outs are bad public policy.