Hydro-Québec is applying for a permit to install more than two million additional smart meters across the province, hoping to bring the total number to 3.8 million units by 2018.
However, one group is calling for a moratorium until it's known beyond a doubt whether the meters cause health problems.
André Bélisle, the head of a watchdog organization that's been keeping an eye on atmospheric pollution for more than 30 years, said Hydro-Québec is rushing things and should wait for the results of new studies, such as the one a federal panel of experts is working on.
“If we act as a responsible society, we should look at the potential health effects before we go and spend billions of dollars on a technology that maybe we will have to take back,” said Bélisle, president of the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique,
“The standards we're using are, compared to the other countries, 100,000 times less strict."
Smart meters record the consumption of electric energy and communicate that information back to the utility with wireless technology for monitoring and billing purposes.
Although Bélisle said he is concerned about the safety of radiation emitted by wireless smart meters, he doesn't dispute the value of meters as energy-efficiency tools.
“We know that it could be a good tool in saving energy or toward energy efficiency. That is a well known fact,” said Bélisle.
According to Hydro-Québec, 850,000 smart meters are already in service in the Montreal area and by next June, 1.7 million will have been installed.
If it gets approval from Quebec's energy board, the utility will install another two million meters over the next five years.
Hydro-Québec said the roll-out is going very well, with less than one per cent of customers choosing to opt out.