Werner Hoffelinck answering questions after his presentation about smart meters at the Bonnington in Nakusp.

Smart meter critic comes to Nakusp

Werner Hoffelinck now lives in Vernon and is volunteering to spread the word about smart meters.

The Coalition to Stop “Smart” Meters’ presentation at the Bonnington Friday, April 20 was the one-man show of Werner Hoffelinck and a series of slides and short videos. Even with sound difficulties, the audience of 45 Nakusp citizens sat captivated by the information Hoffelinck put forward.

Originally an electromechanical engineer from Belgium, Hoffelinck now lives in Vernon and is volunteering with the Coalition spreading the word about smart meters.

The talk started with a description of electrohypersensitivity, a condition Hoffelinck himself claimed to suffer from. The human body, the brain in particular, has a fine electrical balance, one that can be upset by wireless transmissions from devices like cell phones and smart meters, he said. Electrohypersensitivity, according to slides in the presentation, has a cluster of symptoms associated with it that vary from headaches to insomnia and lack of appetite, and has been identified as a medical disorder in Sweden and Germany. The symptoms are often misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, said Hoffelinck, who said one of the worst offenders is cordless phones.

Claims by residents in California that smart meters were causing an adverse physical reaction has forced Pacific Gas and Electrics to remove meters from homes where they were installed, claimed Hoffelinck. And if the research isn’t all in, Hydro should be following the precautionary principle, he said, and stay on the side of safety.

If research and reports of electrohypersensitivity didn’t move the audience, the stories of sudden surges in the cost of power after smart meter installation were sure to. In Ontario where the smart meter program is in full swing, consumers saw their bill go up an average of 40 per cent, said Hoffelinck, and in some cases 200 to 300 per cent. These gigantic rises in costs were attributed by the power corporations to faulty analog meters being in place previously, he said.

The new meters, by the way, need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, unlike the analog meters which have a lifespan of 50 years, he said, which is good for meter manufactures not for Hydro clients. Some profits from meters sales are destined to end up in the pockets of Hydro executives who happen to own shares in CRI, parent company of Corix, the outfit that installs the meters, said Hoffelinck.

The executives may be reaping the rewards, but many Hydro workers will be receiving nothing but a pink slip. Meter readers and IT staff at hydro are facing job losses as BC Hydro eliminates or moves their jobs overseas, Hoffelinck told the crowd.

More bad news was on the agenda as Hoffelinck brought up the elephant in the smart meter room: security of an electronically-controlled grid. It is pretty much self-evident that any system which can be programmed can also be hacked, as the presentation reminded everyone, pointing out that intelligence firms like the Pentagon, major banks, and governments are not immune to being hacked. Hoffelinck said security organizations like the FBI see the move to a smart power grid as foolhardy, opening up access to the grid to whoever can pay the hacker’s price, including terrorist groups or organized crime.

The tone changed from terror to absurdity when the presentation took on the topic of smart appliances. A short video explained that not long from now, your fridge will tell  able to tell your •phone what you’ve got for food, thanks to an app and wireless technology. No more having to open the fridge door, no more having to go through the drudgery of having to put pen to paper, use your brain and make a list. Fridges, washing machines and other household appliances are all becoming “smart” said Hoffelinck.

Does your washing machine tell you when to change your underwear, asked one Nakusp resident, which got everyone laughing.

“You’ve been wearing the same underwear for five days,” joked someone else impersonating a “smart” washer.

One of the more sinister devices was a “smartbot,” a home-roving robot equipped with a camera and microphone that was also hooked up to the wireless network.

Hoffelinck outlined steps Hydro customers can take to register their refusal of smart meters, from sending registered letters of non-consent, no trespassing signs for technicians looking to switch meters, and putting a lock on existing analog meters.

“Keep smart meters off your property for as long as possible,” said Hoffelinck, who told the audience that something would be found to stop the installation of the meters, it was just a matter of time.

At the end of the night, he reminded the Nakusp crowd: “divided we fell, but united we stand,” and encouraged people to work together to stop smart meters from coming to town.

An anti-smart meter petition is available in Little Mountain Outdoor Gear, as well as a sign up list for people wanting to buy an analog meter lock.