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August 10, 2011

Installing smart meters not so smart

The Canadian Charger

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While the sycophants in the corporate media - the National Post in particular - continue to champion exposure to Wi-Fi radiation, a group of dedicated citizens called Citizens for Safe Technology is working hard to put a moratorium on the smart meter installation program in British Columbia, until several issues, such as health, safety, and cost, have been discussed with the general public.

The 'Clean Energy Act' of May 2010 mandates that BC Hydro replace every meter with a "Smart Meter" by 2012. Section 17 specifies that installation can be done "without the consent of the owner." The Act strips the British Columbia Utilities Commission of the power to review the project, which in the past has been the norm.

The replacement of 1.9 million electro-mechanical meters with new digital meters that provide two-way communication between homes and B.C. Hydro through secure connections is considered a step in the modernization of the province's electricity system. The program is designed to provide a more accurate picture of energy consumption, both to Hydro and the consumer, and take pressure off a heavily taxed electricity system.

Meanwhile, The Green Party of B.C. is calling on B.C. Hydro to shelve its $930-million smart meter program until public hearings can be held and the health effects of the wireless devices can be determined.

B.C. Green Party Leader Jane Sterk said the party also believes people should be able to opt out of the program, which earlier this month started replacing existing meters in Prince George and Richmond. Greater Victoria residents can expect to see installations start in late summer or early fall.

"People should have a right to feel safe and secure in their own homes," Ms. Sterk said.

Gary Murphy, chief project officer of B.C. Hydro's smart-metering program, said the electromagnetic radiation from  B.C. Hydro's smart meters are below the most stringent standard in the world - Switzerland's precautionary principle standard;  although Hydro customers can't opt out, they can work on a solution like moving the meters away from the living area of the property.

"Exposure reduces exponentially with distance; it will substantially reduce even the incredibly low exposure with these meters."

At a recent press conference with Ms. Sterk and Elizabeth May, leader of federal Green Party, Magda Havas, an associate professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University, said there are other options available to Hydro in order to ensure a reliable electricity supply.

"These meters are being foisted on people throughout the world ... they are essentially a technological solution looking for a problem," she said. "The meters should be the last part of the plan, not the first part of the plan."

She said that because this is a new technology and there have been no studies on long-term health effects, scientists have to rely on data from wireless devices such as cellphones.  And she noted that the World Health Organization recently rated electromagnetic fields caused by cell phones and other wireless devices as possible carcinogens.

In late 2010, Dr. Havas, published results of a groundbreaking study in the prestigious peer-reviewed European Journal of Oncology. The study demonstrated that some wireless EMFs can adversely affect heart function, causing arrhythmias and other disturbances in heart rate variation (HRV).

BC's 'Clean Energy Act' imposes a mandatory exposure of a potential carcinogen to the children, women, and men of the province, unlike exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) from other wireless digital devices, such as cell phones, which is optional.

Despite these concerns, the corporate media vehemently defends the corporations on this, and most other, issues. The National Post dismisses Dr. Havas's concerns as part of a noisy campaign by a smattering of oft-quoted activists and academics such as Magda Havas.

In response to citizens such as the non-profit educational society Citizens for Safe Technology objecting to smart meters, the National Post wrote:

“There are millions of ordinary Canadians who believe all manner of fairy tales such as this one. They blame their headaches or nausea on Wi-Fi networks – or on airplane contrails or fluoridated water. All of these technologies are harmless. But thanks to the internet, each has become the subject of a thriving web-based paranoia industry.”

Meanwhile, in the last few weeks, a heated anti-meter campaign has seen Gulf Island locals hold protests against the installation of smart meters. After the World Health Organization recently deemed the frequencies emitted from wireless communication devices as a Class 2B carcinogen, several local municipalities, including Methchosin and Salt Spring Island, have applied for a moratorium on the installation of the wireless meters.

Along with health concerns, many question the cost of installing smart meters throughout the province, especially considering that more than 80 per cent of homes in Ontario with smart meters report significantly higher monthly bills, often more than 50 per cent higher than prior to smart meter installation. In California, many report bills doubling and tripling. This is without any change in utilization patterns.

Safety is yet another concern.  Smart meters have exploded and many smart meter-related fires have been reported, most recently a major fire in Santa Rosa, California, where several businesses were severely damaged. The fires are believed related to smart meters interfering with Arc-fault circuit interrupters – a circuit breaker designed to prevent fires by detecting a non-working electrical arc and disconnecting the power before the arc starts a fire.  Several lawsuits are pending in California.

At a cost of close to $1 billion, with potentially harmful health effects, questionable benefits and cost recovery potential, more and more  some British Columbians are wondering why they must have smart meters installed in their homes.

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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