ATCO says meters are no hazard

New devices that will automatically measure power on Red Deer properties are not the same devices creating widespread opposition among British Columbia municipalities, an ATCO Gas company spokesman said on Monday.

New devices that will automatically measure power on Red Deer properties are not the same devices creating widespread opposition among British Columbia municipalities, an ATCO Gas company spokesman said on Monday.

Alan Dixon of Calgary said the company’s automated meter devices are different from the electric-operated smart meters being used in B.C. The Alberta meters will now have a battery-operated radio transmitter on them.

Currently, crews walk up to properties to check the meter reading. Instead, crews will be able to drive by in a car with a special radio and pick up the readings that way, said Dixon.

ATCO Gas expects to finish installing these devices for reading power consumption across Red Deer households and businesses by end of September, Dixon said.

The installation began in June. “We’re almost halfway through right now,” he said.

To date, more than 500,000 have been installed provincewide, so ATCO Gas is about halfway through. It’s anticipated all will be installed by next summer.

“To date, we have had about 400 people who have had concerns with them, so it’s a very low number,” said Dixon.

In British Columbia, a group calling themselves StopSmartMeters.Ca was formed to fight the installation of smart meters.

Nearly 55 communities in B.C. have moratoriums and/or requested to opt out of the service. A petition is also being circulated and when there’s enough signatures, organizers hope a vote similar to the HST will be conducted. The harmonized sales tax was soundly defeated in a province-wide referendum last summer.

Stop Smart Meters are concerned with the introduction of “time-of-use” billing, which it says will increase user costs.

Other reasons for concern: the public had no say on allowing the meters; potential health impacts from electromagnetic radiation; privacy issues over a second wireless transceiver monitoring every electronic device; wireless communications are not secure; no public control; and actual damage caused to appliances and electronics.

The B.C. group points to research showing that EMF, such as that emitted from a smart meter, was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research wing of World Health Organization, as a Class 2b carcinogen. This places everyday levels of EMR exposure in the same category as lead, dioxins and DDT (pesticide used on crops to kill mosquitoes).

Dixon said the smart meter, a term used in the electric industry, can do lots of things like turn on and off the power.

“They can monitor consumption over very short intervals,” said Dixon. “They have a lot more capability than our gas ones do.”

ATCO’s meters can only send out monthly meter reading, which is what can be done manually today, he added.

During the installation process, an ERT device is installed on a current ATCO Gas meter. ERT stands for Encoder, Receiver and Transmitter. It encodes the meter reading data, receives instructions from the mobile collector and then transmits the meter reading data. All transmissions are done via radio frequency.

Dixon said it’s the same frequency used by wireless phones used in someone’s house, or baby monitors as well.

“It’s very low energy consumption,” he said. “It’s a battery device.”

These batteries last about 20 years, so the electromagnetic radiation would be very low, he added.

Most meters are found outside the house, but a few would be found in basements, Dixon said.

Dixon said he doesn’t have the particulars on what is being installed in B.C. when it comes to the strength of electromagnetic radiation (EMF).

He said ATCO’s devices using EMF are similar to AM or FM radio broadcasts in the air.

According to Health Canada, exposure to RF energy from such technologies does not pose a health risk, reports ATCO Gas.

When asked about whether this new device would result in higher costs for users, Dixon said costs would actually be reduced.

“Today, we have to read devices manually and a meter reader can maybe do 400 to 500 houses a day,” said Dixon. “With these new devices, we’ll be able to read up to 10,000 reads a day by one meter reader.”

This would result in operational cost savings, which will be passed down to customers, he said.

Users will see more accurate readings since they will now be done monthly, Dixon added.

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