Abbotsford man blows fuse over smart meter installation

The rollout of smart meters in Abbotsford hit a bump in the road with a confrontation between a meter installer and an elderly man.

The rollout of smart meters in Abbotsford hit a bump in the road on Crossley Drive, when a confrontation between a meter installer and an elderly man led to a police incident.

The man, in his 70s, told The News by phone on Friday morning that he had just ordered the installer off his property, and threw the smart meter back onto the road. He said the police had been called, and asked The News to attend. They had no right to be on private property uninvited, he maintained. The family later asked for anonymity.

Police resolved the incident without charges being laid. Neither the man who started the incident, nor the middle-aged woman who identified herself as the homeowner, offered further comment. The installer from Corix Utilities, which is the contractor for Hydro handling the installs, also had no comment on the incident.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the resident indicated he did not want a smart meter. The Hydro installer said that was fine, but he needed to take a photograph of the existing meter. The resident would not allow that either, and a heated exchange ensued. Police are not considering the incident an assault.

Hydro’s Cindy Verschoor, manager of communications for smart metering in Abbotsford, explained Hydro does have the right to be on private property to access its equipment. Power meters are owned by Hydro, considered part of the province’s power grid, and access to them is protected under federal and provincial laws.

What’s more, she said people who don’t want a smart meter should not confront the installers.

“If a customer has a concern about the smart meter, all they have to do is call,” she said.

Verschoor said more than 99 per cent of customers are accepting the new devices, but admitted “there are people who do have concerns.”

The number to phone is 1-800-224-9376 to request a delay in the installation of a smart meter, and Hydro will deal with concerns.

“We’re talking to people as we go,” said Verschoor. “We’re having very good success.”

She said the new meters are part of modernizing the grid, which has not been updated since the 1950s.

She added there have been 25,000 studies on radio frequencies worldwide, and there have been no links to human health.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall has affirmed there is no health concern associated with the meters.

However, there are those who believe otherwise.

In September 2011, the province’s municipalities called for a delay in the smart meter rollout at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, citing cost and consultation concerns.

The install is costing $1 billion, but Hydro estimates it will result in $1.6 billion over 20 years in energy savings through conservation and prevention of power theft.

Verschoor said Hydro has so far completed about 7,000 of the 68,000 smart meter installations to be done in Abbotsford, and this is the only incident.

Province-wide, the utility company has replaced 715,000 out of 1.8 million analog meters.

Verschoor said confrontations have been “very, very rare.”