The province's private sector electricity utility is trying to boost confidence in its roll-out of smart meters across Lunenburg County as "a small but very vocal group of customers" raise alarm about safety and health issues associated with the technology.
"Like any other piece of technology that you have in your home today, things get better over time, and we're pretty confident they're [smart meters] going to deliver the benefits we say they're going to deliver," said Nova Scotia Power's (NSP) Jamie Chipp, who's in charge of the smart meter program.
Chipp, a senior manager, along with other NSP officials who deal in the transmission network, and government and customer relations, were in front of civic politicians virtually March 8 in Bridgewater to talk about the upcoming meter changes.
Smart meters are expected to replace the old residential and business electrical meters in the region, starting March 15 in places such as Bridgewater, LaHave, Chester and surrounding areas. The replacement work is expected to continue into the summer. The replacement meters are installed for free.
The device transmits energy usage information, in an encrypted format, over a private and secure wireless network to NSP's data centre. The new meters do not transmit a customer's personal information.
NSP said the meters meet federal and industry sanctioned health and safety protections concerning radio frequency emissions. Details about how often and when data is transmitted was reassuring to David Mitchell, Bridgewater's mayor, who told LighthouseNOW it's a concern he hears about often.
However, Peter Ripple of Liverpool, who oversees an anti-smart meters internet website, believes consumers' health takes a backseat to the financial wants and needs of NSP investors. He disputes the scientific explanation offered as it relates to wireless devices. "Actually, the hundreds of non-industry funded studies that have been done conclude that, indeed, harm occurs at levels much lower than what industry likes to inflict on us for their profit," he said in an email to LighthouseNOW.
"Just like anything, it is up to people to care about their own health and eat healthy and avoid toxins in food and other places in the environment."
NSP maintains the smart meters are not only safe, they're secure and accurate.
"I think there's a small, but very vocal group of customers that have opinions related to smart meters, related to potential health concerns," Chipp told town council, when asked by Councillor Stacey Colwell about misunderstandings about the NSP's program.
Chipp said NSP's been working on better explaining the facts and work involved. Smart meters have been around since the early 2000s, he said, and are in other places in Canada. Nova Scotia is one of the last jurisdictions to make the move over to them.
Of the 500,000 electric meters in the province, more than 330,000 have been upgraded, NSP said. The program, which started in 2019, is expected to finish by year's end, while the Bridgewater area portion is expected to finish within the next three months.
The utility indicated that smart meters help achieve the customer-oriented objectives of having stable power rates, a reliable system, and clean energy. The new meters have a life expectancy of 20 years or more, NSP told council.
"Customers have the option of opting out of smart meters at any point," Chipp told council.
Although it costs nothing now for a customer to decline a smart meter, that will change when NSP applies to the province's regulator, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB), to establish a fee.