The group Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) and its supporters have initiated legal action against B.C. Hydro for its implementation of the Smart Meter. They believe the Smart Meter invades people’s human and civil rights. According to Sharon Noble, director of CST, two lawsuits are in progress: one for violation of human rights and the other for infringement of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Smart Metering Program is an introduction of a modernized electronic power meter that supporters say can improve safety and reliability to the benefit of customers in the long term. Information about health and privacy posted on the B.C. Hydro website is rebutted and questioned by CST.
Objectives of the Smart Metering Program are to get lights back on faster and more safely during power outages, keep rates low by helping B.C. Hydro operate more efficiently, reduce wasted electricity, and provide customers with tools to conserve energy and save money. According to Mora Scott, representative of media relations and issues management for B.C. Hydro, “The electricity grid is the backbone of our economy and supports our quality of life in B.C. We need new meters to modernize our system and ensure it keeps up with growth in demand.”
“Smart meters help to make our electricity system more efficient and cost-effective by reducing power loss and operating costs,” says Scott. B.C. Hydro says that these savings will benefit customers by helping to keep their rates among the lowest in North America. Scott says Smart Meters have been proven safe and are helping to make substantial improvements to the electrical grid. “Both the B.C. Utilities Commission and the B.C. Court of Appeal have dismissed previous legal challenges related to the installation of Smart Meters,” she says.
Noble says, “The World Health Organization has classified the radio frequency emission from any wireless device including Smart Meter as 2B carcinogen, which is the same classification as lead.”
Stephen Sinatra, co-founder and medical director of the American College of Cardiologists, said, “The wireless microwave radiation from Wi-Fi and mobile phones is the greatest medical threat of our time.”
Noble believes that the accuracy of information on the B.C. Hydro website is questionable. She says emissions have been measured to be a hundred times more than a cellphone. She feels that experiments held in laboratories are not applicable to B.C. Hydro’s real life situations. She says, “The radiation level from each meter is extremely high.”
“B.C. Hydro’s new meters communicate using radio signals, which are common in our everyday lives and have been used safely for decades,” says Scott. She says most neighbourhoods’ common sources of continuous radio frequency include FM radio, television, and cellphone signals. B.C. Hydro also says that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the Provincial Health Officer, Health Canada, and the World Health Organization have all confirmed that the wireless technology used by Smart Meters does not pose any known health risks.
CST is concerned about more than just health risks, though. The group says there is also the issue of privacy, as Smart Meters collect data in order to tell users which appliances they use the most during the day.
“[Collecting personal data] is the entire purpose of this program. They are saying they want to gather our data,” says Noble. “How can they not gather our [personal] data, and be able to tell us what appliances we are using?” she asked. “It is getting to the point now where most of new appliances will have a Smart Chip in it?”
Scott sees the privacy matter differently; she says, “Protecting privacy is a top priority. The new meters do not give B.C. Hydro more information about you.”
B.C. Hydro says it protects the privacy of customers by consulting with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C.’s office, designing a system with multiple layers of security and managing customer information according to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
One of the rights Noble feels is violated is the right to live in one’s home freely and secure from invasion. “I can say whether I do not want a cell phone, a cordless phone, and a Wi-Fi router, because they are dangerous with RF radiation. What right does B.C. Hydro have to tell me that I need to have a wireless device which is going to emit radiation into my home?” she said. B.C. Hydro’s statistics, on the other hand, say that over 97 per cent of customers throughout the province have accepted the new meters.