Judging by Penticton council’s reaction to a small lobby opposing smart meters, the old adage of the squeaky wheel getting the grease certainly has some truth in it.
Smart meters are nothing new. In Penticton, they go back to 2003, which is when the city’s electric utility began a program of replacing manually read meters with ones that can be read at a distance, wirelessly. But recently, smart meters have become the latest thing to protest, as happened with cellphones, wireless internet routers, microwave ovens, etc.
With a vocal minority protesting the introduction of smart meters, council made the decision to allow people to “opt out” of having smart electrical and water meters in their homes. A fairly sensible decision, even though it was based on flimsy evidence brought forward by the anti-smart meter lobby, and flies in the face of provincial and federal regulatory studies as well as common sense — smart meters transmit only intermittently and at very low levels.
No, where council dropped the ball was with the decision over who is going to pay for the cost of some people reverting to manual-read meters, balking at the staff recommendation that the full cost ($100 for an electric meter and $26.25 per monthly meter reading) should be borne by the person choosing to opt out, and not be shared among other users.
The opt-out policy was already full of holes, like the multitude of problems that will come in strata developments, when a group of owners forces everyone in the building to opt out. But staff got it right when they said the person opting out should pay for it. Smart meters, after all, are a cost-saving measure for the city.
By offering the opt-out policy, council gave this vocal minority all the latitude they deserve. It’s time for them to pay the cost for getting what they desire, not force the rest of the population to pick up the tab for their views.