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Smart people, smart meters

March 29, 2011

We have to confess: We’re big fans of Black Press-BCLocalnews.com legislative reporter and columnist Tom Fletcher.  He never fails to do his research and he always cuts to the heart of a matter; illuminating folly and fools with his sharp wit, his logic and his dry humour.  In short: He knows his stuff.

Along with Sean Leslie, Vaughn Palmer, Keith Baldrey, Michael Smyth, Scott Simpson and Bill Good, Fletcher is part of what the boys in the BCCGE mailroom like to call the “Mercury Seven” of B.C. journalists — a group of journalists with the right stuff who have shown themselves to be well-informed and highly knowledgeable about B.C.’s energy sector.

It will be a very cold day in Hell before one of these Mercury Seven journalists falls victim to even the smallest bit of misinformation from bombastic myth-masters like Rafe Mair (much to the chagrin of Mair and his sidekicks like Damien Gillis) or to the unending flow of misinformation oozing from the COPE 378 myth machine.  

In fact, every time one of these well-respected B.C. journalists tackles an energy topic, an audible cheer rings out from the BCCGE mailroom as the general public’s level of energy literacy inches up a notch.

Such was the case recently with Tom Fletcher’s column about BC Hydro’s Smart Metering Program.

As BC Hydro smart meter project executive Fiona Taylor told Fletcher, “Smart meters are inevitable… since mechanical meters are obsolete and eventually won’t be made any more.” 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  

We’ll also hazard a guess that anyone familiar with newfangled things like cell phones and personal computers will be able to nod in agreement with Fiona Taylor’s assessment of what the future holds for mechanical meters. 

In short: Mechanical meters are Silicon Valley roadkill…  The Dodo birds of the digital age… The rotary dial phones of the energy world….

Okay, okay… We know… You get the point: Smart meters can do all sorts of things mechanical meters could never do, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that this is so. 

A prime example, as pointed out by Fletcher in his column: BC Hydro currently has no way of knowing that your power is out with their existing meters unless you phone and tell them. 

That’s seriously low-tech and practically stone-age in terms of what’s possible with a smart grid supported by smart meters.

And this leads us to the part of Fletcher’s column that got the boys in the BCCGE mailroom whooping and cheering for Fletcher: Smart meters send their data to BC Hydro using wireless signals, and some people have been trying to whip up anti-smart-meter hysteria by claiming the wireless signals represent a health hazard.

In response to this, as Fletcher reports, “BC Hydro has retained former Vancouver medical health officer Dr. John Blatherwick” who has already pointed out “that smart meter signals are the equivalent of a three-minute cell phone call once per day, at a much greater distance.”

But Luddites and contrarians seem to abound in B.C. and, as Fletcher points out, even the NDP has opportunistically opted to exploit such irrational fear in their own opposition to smart meters and various other BC Hydro regeneration initiatives

As Fletcher states, the NDP has been very careful not to question “the tinfoil hat perspective, and risk alienating the ignorant and superstitious vote,” which Fletcher points out is “a key constituency in parts of B.C.”

Fortunately, none of the boys in the BCCGE mailroom own tinfoil hats.  They’re all fairly smart people. 

And as rational, critical thinkers, they’ve dedicated themselves to stamping out ignorance and superstition, which includes the flood of nasty misinformation that’s been directed at renewable energy projects in B.C. over the past several years.

So, in 700 words or less, that’s why the boys in the BCCGE mailroom are such huge fans of Fletcher and the rest of the Mercury Seven journalists noted above.  Without these well-informed journalists, and the “right stuff” knowledge they bring to discussions about B.C.’s energy sector, B.C. might never reach its clean energy objectives… and that would be a very sad day indeed.

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