A West Vancouver man has taken the fight over smart meters to a new level by welding, bolting and chaining up his old meter in an effort to prevent it from being swapped out.
Peter Ferlow, 43, said the extreme measures are his way of resisting the province’s plan to replace all of B.C.’s traditional energy gauges with the new wireless devices, which he believes pose a health risk and violate homeowners’ privacy. To date, B.C. Hydro has swapped out 47,000 meters on the North Shore with another 28,000 to go, but if Ferlow has his way, the device on his Keith Road property won’t be one of them.
“It’s pissed me off so much,” said Ferlow, referring to Hydro’s mandatory initiative, which began in July last year. “I’ve talked to everybody on my street and handed out flyers.”
The resident, who owns a business manufacturing natural cosmetics, set out to fortify his old meter in February by welding a quarter-inch plate and an aluminum cover over it. “Then I wasn’t happy with that,” he said. “So I went back and welded another plate on.”
Ferlow dismissed the argument that the new meters pose no more of a threat to health than other common household appliances. While electrical devices such as microwaves and cellphones also emit electromagnetic radiation, “those are devices you can choose to turn off,” he said.
But Dr. Brian O’Connor, health officer for the North Shore, said Ferlow’s concerns are unfounded. International and national reviews of the technology have all come to one conclusion, he said.
“As they are used, we do not see them as being a potential health risk for the public,” said O’Connor. Smart meters emit about the same amount of radiation as a cellphone, he said, “but it’s only in use for seconds, whereas someone might have a cellphone at the side of their ear for a long time.”
There might be opportunity for more research into the effects of the technology, but “there’s nothing we have seen in reviewing the evidence that would give us the confidence to tell the public that they have something to be concerned about,” said O’Connor.
Ferlow is not alone in his efforts to resist Hydro’s plan. The West Vancouverite was on hand May 1 to support Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr as she successfully brought forward a motion to ask the utility to offer residents an opt-out option. Several other B.C. municipalities and regional districts have passed similar motions in response to health concerns raised by citizens.
But while such initiatives may be a way to voice opposition, the opt-out plan is “not viable,” said company spokesman Greg Alexis in an email.
“Smart meters are required to renew our electrical grid, and not having all customers participate would have a cost impact on the customers who have accepted their new meter,” he said.
If homeowners don’t want the meter put in, the best they can do is ask to be placed on a delay list, said Alexis. The company will then call the resident to speak to them about their concerns.
About 2,000 people who had initially been concerned about the program had agreed to let the installation go ahead after getting more information from the company, according to Alexis.
To date, Hydro has already installed 1.1 million new meters and has 1.9 million more to go. The crown corporation says the devices will help the company manage supply more efficiently, detect theft and encourage consumers to conserve power.
Ferlow, however, isn’t buying it.
“You’d have to be some kind of an . . . idiot who’s paranoid about how much electricity your toaster’s using,” he scoffed.