BC Hydro’s taking us for a ride

Smart meter program is just one big financial mess

Dear Sir:

“The British Columbia Utilities Commission is an independent regulatory agency of the Provincial Government that operates under and administers the Utilities Commission Act. The Commission’s primary responsibility is the regulation of British Columbia’s natural gas and electricity utilities. We also regulate intra-provincial pipelines and universal compulsory automobile insurance.” Quote from the BCUC website.

I question whether the minister in charge of BC Hydro understands the meaning of the word independent or if he is just filled with his notion of self importance that he will now command the BCUC to do as he directs. Either way the news that Energy Minister Bill Bennett issues order to the BCUC on BC Hydro meter fees deserves a response.

It would seem that “Independence” is a word not in a BC Liberal dictionary. The BCUC was ordered not to review the smart meter program when it was first proposed and you can’t have them now exposing the colossal scam that it was by allowing them to rule on these fees..

Consider an article written for Global News by Keith Baldrey September 17, 2013

Day of reckoning is at hand for BC Hydro. Check it out for yourself. He lays the financial problems of BC Hydro at the feet of the BC Liberal Government. He says and I quote, ” An internal document leaked to COPE 378, one of the unions at BC Hydro, suggests a rate hike of 26.4 per cent over the next two years is required to cover costs. Those costs total about $1 billion. Here’s the breakdown:

$515 million for capital spending, amortization and financing costs

$160 million for “rate smoothing,” which covers the rate increase that was supposed to occur last year

$135 million for contracts with independent power producers

$130 million to pay for deferred expenses

$65 million to cover interest and operating costs.” (End of quote)

But there is another comment which is relevant to the issue of why a 26% increase in hydro rates are now needed.

Baldrey writes “For example, the $1-billion smart meter installation program has never been scrutinized by the B.C. Utilities Commission because the B.C. Liberals ruled it was exempt from such scrutiny. In fact, much of what BC Hydro has or hasn’t done over the past decade has occurred without any external scrutiny and that partly explains why the mess the corporation is in today is so bad.”

So naturally when Bill Bennett roars that anyone who does not have a smart meter will have to pay $35 a month for meters that are read no more than once ever two months and often much less than that, I have that feeling that I am watching Saturday Night Live except this is not funny.

Here is why. I got one of those letters from BC Hydro. I don’t have a smart meter yet. My objection has always been just what Baldrey wrote about. It was a dumb idea and a waste of money that could have been used elsewhere. My response to BC Hydro was as follows:

Dear Mr. R_________.

When the one and only meter installer appeared at my door more than a year ago and told me – he did not ask – that he was there to change my meter, my response was “I would prefer you didn’t.” I was not offered a reduction in my hydro bill of $35 per month. I made no threat, did not order him off the property and posted no sign to that effect. I was the only person in my neighborhood who was home at the time and also the only person who received any prior notice. No one that I know of has received a reduction of $35 dollars from their hydro bill because they “accepted” a smart meter. That fact makes the idea of a fee outrageous.

I thought then, and I still do, that BC Hydro was wasting money ( about $1 billion dollars) and that somebody had sold them “smart” meters that proved only that the seller was probably the only smart person in the transaction. The smart meters were in all probability smarter than the people who made the decision to waste so much of BC Hydro’s financial resources rather than upgrading important infrastructure.

Every letter your office or another have sent to me since, I have simply refuted the points you try to make to justify the scam but I never stated in any way that I would consider paying $35 a month to have someone walk the 40 feet up my driveway to read a meter BC Hydro reads maybe every couple of months. At that price I would be happy to do it for you once every two months, send you the photo via an email, and you can take the $35 off my hydro bill each month before you send it in the mail. That is, if you are going to be honest about how the $35 fee was arrived at.

Your choices offered are tantamount to extortion. My hydro rates already pay for the wasted money in smart meters installed and now you want me to pay even more to force me to take a smart meter by demanding $35 each month and the worst is that you want me to sign my name, something no other hydro user has been required to do, and thereby absolve you of any liability for the effects of the smart meter if such occur.

I have no intention of paying any additional fee and if all the legal channels are exhausted with the BCUC and other actions currently taking place and I am forced to accept this “smart” decision by BC Hydro under threat of disconnect then I will have to accept a “smart” meter but please don’t expect me to do so willingly or give any indication that I agree with any of your justifications for this smart meter scam when I don’t.

Sincerely yours,

I agree with Baldrey and I rarely do, but when he writes “But the best thing would be to send the whole mess to the B.C. Utilities Commission to sort out. The B.C. Liberals don’t like external scrutiny (hello cancelled fall legislature sitting) but in this case it might just save everyone some money.” The evidence must be overwhelming – really overwhelming.

No doubt there are folks who think everyone who doesn’t want a “smart” meter wears a tinfoil hat. It is a known fact that those who actually do wear them, see them on everyone who disagrees with their point of view. It is probably true that the meters are smarter than anyone who decides even after Baldrey’s comments that the smart meters were such a great idea for BC Hydro. I guess for them a 26% increase in hydro rates is deserved . Some of us, like Baldrey, (you can include Rafe Mair as well) can tell when we are being taken for a ride.

Helmut Giesbrecht, Terrace, BC