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Residents hear from NSP about smart meter installation plans

MOSER RIVER – Representatives of Nova Scotia Power visited Moser River to inform area residents of the benefits of installing smart meters. NSP will begin meter upgrades for customers in Harrigan Cove next week and the Eastern Shore area ending in April.

The attentive audience consisted mostly of seniors who came informed and ready with questions. NSP representatives Patti Lewis, NSP’s manager of communications, and Alec Lynch, training associate, showed a slide presentation, including question and answer opportunities throughout.

“It’s quick and easy to install,” explained Lewis, “the entire process takes less than 15 minutes to complete and customers will experience a momentary loss of power.”

Smart meters digitally measure the amount of electricity used by the consumer and the time of usage. The data is transmitted over a secure wireless network to Nova Scotia Power generating the information required to create the customer’s bill.

“Anything that changes the temperature is what tends to be a heavier energy user,” explained Lynch. “Efficiency Nova Scotia website has a listing of common appliances and you can mark what you use on average and it will give you information about energy usage.”

Following the meeting Lewis told The Journal that the mandate of the public meetings is to “allow us to connect and listen and respond to the suggestions and concerns customers may have. Specifically, for our smart meter upgrade, it’s essential that customers are well informed, and get the facts.

“Smart meters generate many benefits including helping us stabilize electricity rates while also providing faster, and more effective service. The objective of these community meetings is to educate our customers on smart meters and the benefits of smart meter technology; to give customers the opportunity to meet with us in person and have their questions answered. It’s important they understand the facts about smart meters and feel informed and prepared for the meter upgrade.”

Murray and Linda Munroe are among the residents who wanted to know more. During an interview with The Journal following the meeting, they said they felt it was a good session. "We feel satisfied with the questions we had,” says Murray. “If the power goes off the smart meter will know the exact civic number and so that will be a big advantage that way. They notify NSP when the power goes out. It cleared up a lot for us. People have concerns about radioactivity but it has the same level as anything wireless.”

“It eased our minds. They (NSP) are not going to put anything out there that is dangerous to their customers,” says Linda.

NSP notifies customers by mail, bill inserts and notices to the NSP website for scheduling when their community will have the smart meters installed. In most cases, meters are located outside, so homeowners don’t need to be present when the work is done. Customers have the opportunity to opt out of switching from their current analogue meter to the new smart meter.

Beverley Ledden, a senior resident of Harrigan Cove, has opted out of having a smart meter installed on her property. “My decision was partially made before their presentation but I made my final decision after.” Speaking with The Journal by phone following the meeting, Ledden felt the NSP representatives did not veer from their message. “They had a rehearsed, pact statement that they repeated.”

Ledden explains her hesitancy, “Smart meters were in Calgary in the 1980s and it was a bit of a circus. I realize that was a long time ago and ours are new…but are we, as Nova Scotians, going to be the test?” Ledden says the real core of the matter is health concerns. “They say they give off as much radiation as a baby monitor. We are seniors. We don’t have baby monitors. They say the smart meters transmit for three minutes and send out information every fifteen minutes. There is so much mixed information and distorted news on social media. We may choose to use a cell phone but meters shouldn’t be forced on you.”

When Ledden chose to opt out she phoned Nova Scotia Power customer care.

“The representative emailed me directly with the opt out form and informed me there is a $4 a month fee to keep the analogue meter...The fee is $22 a month for small businesses.” The meters will still have to be manually read by a reader and parts kept available in case of repair.

Lewis explained during the presentation, “There is no charge for upgrading to a smart meter. Smart meters will not increase power bills. Upgrading to a smart meter will help customers better manage their electricity costs, help us respond more quickly in the event of an outage, and enable remote power to be connected and disconnected without an appointment. Once we upgrade all meters across the province, Nova Scotia Power will begin turning on the smart technology in early 2021. Until then, how we serve customers won’t change.”

Lewis and Lynch say access to daily information about energy usage and notifications will help customers make informed decisions and better manage their personal electricity costs. No onsite appointments will be required for either connecting or disconnecting electricity.

“Smart meters are safe, accurate and secure," says Lewis. "All meters must meet or exceed industry regulations and standards, which are in place to help ensure the health and safety of our customers and employees. Approximately seventy per cent of Canadian homes and businesses already have smart meters.”

The presentation was hosted by the Moser River Community Hall Association.

Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal