Ukee condo owner faces power cut-off over bill dispute

Marlene Macfarlane’s Ucluelet condos could soon be cut off from power if she does not pay a past-due bill associated with keeping her analog electricity meter.

Macfarlane refused to allow BC Hydro to install smart meters on her two Edgewater units and became one of 19,380 (according to BC Hydro statistics) to keep the analog meter.

Last year, BC Hydro announced anyone who wished to keep their analog meter could do so but would be charged $32.40 a month for the privilege.

This fee kicked in on Dec. 1 and Macfarlane has consistently refused to pay the roughly $64.80 a month BC Hydro is charging her to keep her two analog meters, which means she’s facing 10 months, or roughly $630, worth of unpaid fees.

“I have paid my regular Hydro fee, the one that I contracted for. I never contracted for this other $70

a month,” she said. “Now they’ve told me that they’re shutting it off.”

Macfarlane splits her time between Regina, Sask., and Ucluelet and said one of her two Edgewater units is vacant with the power off while the other holds a fridge and a deep-freeze.

She believes BC Hydro’s smart meters emit dangerous radio waves, and is now considering selling her Edgewater units because many in the building accepted smart meters.

“They need to move those smart meters because they make me sick,” she said, adding she has had difficulty proving the meters are dangerous. “You can’t see a radiowave, a fire you can see, but the health effects of the radio waves in order to start proving that is very difficult.”

She said communication from BC Hydro has been

lacking. “Right now it’s either pay (the legacy fees) or we cut it off, that’s their communication,” she said. “I’m not the only one who can’t afford to pay this kind of fee, there’s a lot of older people, especially who are retired and on fixed incomes, and they can’t afford it.”

She believes it is unfair to charge customers to keep their old analog meters and sees it as a smart-meterpushing tactic.

“It’s more than bullying,” she said. “What do you call the sort of government where they are trying to

enforce these smart meters on people who don’t want it?” Macfarlane plans to arrive in Ucluelet next week and is Hydworried about what she will walk into.

“I’m expecting, this time when I come, I will have no lights, no hot water, no internet…no fridge (and) no deep freeze,” she said. “I’m not looking forward to that one little bit.”

BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk told the Westerly that the monthly $32.40 charge is needed to recover the costs of maintaining the resources necessary to keep the analog system running.

“Trucks, equipment, people, they have to be retained to read the meters and manually put the data back into the billing system, whereas the new system is read remotely and inputted remotely,” he said.

“There’s also billing infrastructure as well, it’s not just going out there reading the meters and plugging it in the new system…Setting up and maintaining a separate meter and billing process, that’s we’re doing when we have the old legacy meter and the new system.”

The $32.40 monthly charge adds up to about $388 a year, a not insignificant dent in an average household’s budget, but Olynyk noted the fee could be avoided by accepting a smart meter.

“That’s your choice,” Olynyk said. “(If) you want to retain a certain piece of equipment, you have the right to make that choice, but there’s a cost for that choice, just like everything in our world.”

He added customers who accepted a smart meter should not be subsidizing those who chose to keep

their analogs.

Even if Macfarlane allows BC Hydro to install a smart meter at this point, she is still on the hook for the past 10 months of missed legacyfee payments.

“It’s just like going to a restaurant, the grocery store, to Shaw, or to Telus. If you’ve incurred charges, you have to pay your bill in full, as with the rest of us,” Olynyk said. “Our disconnection policy has not changed as a result of the smart meter program…If they don’t maintain payment they may be subject to late payment charges and then their accounts could eventually be passed on to collections or risk disconnection.”

He added smart meters passed reviews by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“There are no health concerns for the new meter,” he said. “It’s a Wi-Fi device that communicates less than a minute a day.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca

Just Posted

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: Rescued eagle released in Ucluelet

“I’m very confident that he’s going to make it. He’s done very well.”

Ahousaht Fire Department always at the ready

“Under stressful situations we come out at our best.”

Tofino honours volunteer firefighters with award

To have the community support you, say ‘Thank you,’ and recognize you, just really means an awful lot

Video: An up-close look at beluga whales in Hudson Bay

An up-close look as some belugas greet whale watchers off the coast of Churchill, Manitoba

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

NHL players say Canada’s legalization of marijuana won’t impact them

NHL players say the legalization of marijuana in Canada won’t change how they go about their business.

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

Internal government documents show that more than one million jobs could be lost to automated vehicles, with ripple effects far beyond the likeliest professions.

Private marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

B.C. has approved 62 licences, but they still need local approval

HPV vaccine does not lead to riskier sex among teen girls: UBC

Girls are less likely to have sex now than they were a decade ago

Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

The rival Koreas are holding high-level talks Monday to discuss further engagement amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

Most Read