Letter: FortisBC says keeping old meter ‘not an option.’

…customers who prefer to receive an advanced meter with the wireless signals disabled…(will pay) the associated fees…

To the editor:

We would like to provide our customers with some additional information regarding our advanced metering rollout currently underway in Kelowna.

FortisBC is currently upgrading electricity meters in Kelowna with advanced meters, in part to meet changing Measurement Canada regulations. This project was approved after a public process with our regulator, the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), in which a commission panel determined the meters pose no risk to our customers and are in the public interest.

Wireless advanced meters make it less costly for FortisBC to deliver electricity to you by reducing theft and reducing meter reading costs. Utilities throughout North America have been challenged with finding ways to continue providing safe and reliable electricity service at the lowest reasonable cost, while maintaining and upgrading the electricity grid to keep up with rising demand. With more than 50 million advanced meters now installed in North America, utilities have turned to these modern meters as a cost-effective and beneficial step in that direction.

You may have heard about problems with meters in Saskatchewan that had to be removed due to reported mechanical issues that allowed moisture to get inside the meter.  FortisBC is using advanced meters from a different manufacturer and has already successfully installed over 40,000 meters in the Trail and Kelowna areas.

Some people have raised concerns about the wireless signals. Health Canada has set out radiofrequency exposure guidelines through Safety Code 6.  The BC Utilities Commission reviewed expert evidence regarding those guidelines and found they provide protection and a safety factor and concluded that “… based on the scientific evidence, that FortisBC customers would experience RF exposure from AMI meters far below the limits of Safety Code 6.”

You may have seen misinformation stating that those with pacemakers will be put at risk because of the wireless signals. While you should always review the proper operation of your pacemaker with your doctor, medical devices are designed to safely coexist with common wireless devices like AMI meters and Wi-Fi routers.

There are some customers who would prefer to keep their old meter.  This is not an option for a number of reasons, including the fact that analog meters are no longer manufactured.  However, we do provide an option for customers who prefer to receive an advanced meter with the wireless signals disabled. This option, along with the associated fees that ensure the costs of the radio-off option are not subsidized by other customers, was also reviewed and approved by the BCUC.

Whatever type of AMI meter you choose, rest assured that it will be installed in a safe manner by properly trained personnel.  They will knock on your door before the exchange in case you are home and wish to turn anything off before the brief power disruption.  They will then remove your old meter, inspect the meter base and install your new meter.  In most cases, your power will be back on in a few minutes. FortisBC has safely exchanged tens of thousands of meters in this manner for many decades.

We remain committed to providing you with a safe and reliable electricity service.

We encourage customers who have questions about these meters to call us at 1-866-436-7847 or visit fortisbc.com/ami.

Mark Warren, P. Eng.

director, customer service, technology and systems,