LETTERS: Disagree with smart meter column

FortisBC responds to guest column in Penticton Western News.

FortisBC has now safely installed 100,000 advanced meters throughout our service area.

This ongoing project will open the door to new benefits for our customers, including more convenient billing options, more timely and useful information through account online and a more efficient response to power outages.

Unfortunately, a recent guest column in the Penticton Western News contained a number of misstatements about the project that FortisBC would like to correct. Some of those inaccuracies also appeared in a recent Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen motion that petitions the BC Utilities Commission to halt advanced meter installations. The motion does not take into account the extensive public regulatory process that took place before the BCUC concluded last year that our advanced meter project is in the public interest.

As for certification, just like other utility owned and operated equipment, advanced meters do not require certification by the Canadian Standards Association, as that organization’s focus is on consumer products. Advanced meters are certified by Industry Canada, and several other professional organizations, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The writer has also misinterpreted the BC Safety Authority regulations, as they are not applicable to public utilities, such as FortisBC.

The writer makes unsubstantiated claims that the FortisBC advanced meters manufactured by Itron have design flaws. The writer fails to cite a source for this information and incorrectly alludes to meters damaged in Summerland as an example. To clarify, meters belonging to the district-owned utility in Summerland were damaged last November due to a voltage surge that was likely caused by a lower voltage line touching a higher voltage one.

It had nothing to do with advanced meters. Also, in Saskatchewan, SaskPower recalled electricity meters manufactured by Sensus, not Itron.

With respect to concerns regarding wireless signals, the authoritative body that establishes radiofrequency (RF) guidelines is Health Canada.  Our advanced meters operate well below Health Canada’s RF guidelines – and most other international standards, including guidelines in the U.S., Japan and many European countries. The meters also emit less RF than common devices, such as Wi-Fi routers and cellphones.

Those customers who are still concerned can choose a radio-off meter. The wireless transmissions will be disabled and the meter will be read manually. The fees approved by the BCUC for this option cover the incremental costs of these manual meter reads, and ensure the majority of customers who have adopted the advanced meters are not losing the financial benefits of the project.

Advanced meters are a key upgrade to the electricity system that will open the door to new benefits for our customers. We encourage those who have questions about the meters to call us at 1-866-436-7847 or visit fortisbc.com/ami.

Ian Dyck,

Project Director,

Electric Advanced Metering Infrastructure, FortisBC