SaskPower reports smart meter supply chain delay

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Canadian provincial power utility SaskPower has extended its residential smart meter pilot rollout to yearend.

The Saskatchewan power company opened its smart meter programme to the residential sector in March, with the intention to install up to 30,000 meters by August.

However, within a few weeks, at the end of May, the programme was suspended for new applications. At that time more than 20,000 interested homeowners already had signed up but just 2,000 smart meters were installed, with SaskPower citing delays in the arrival of meters due to global supply issues.

In the latest report the company, which has now installed approximately 8,800 smart meters, has extended the delivery programme to the end of the year.

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While the shortage of microchips and semiconductors has been widely publicised in sectors including automotive manufacturing and IT, it is obviously much more widespread. SaskPower is the first utility of which we are aware to highlight its impact on a power company programme.

However, in its latest financial results presentation earlier this month Itron alluded to the issue, with Tom Deitrich, president and CEO, quoted as saying that that component constraints had affected both the ability to meet customer demand and the company’s cost structure.

In the release, he anticipates that the component supply will remain constrained in the second half of the year and into 2022. If so this is likely to impact the progress of the various smart meter and other smart grid initiatives underway, particularly in Europe where the mandated targets are looming.

Conversely, Siemens in its August third-quarter report said that while supply chain constraints and material shortages were a challenge, these were being successfully mastered and that significant constraints are not expected during the remainder of the fiscal year.

Clearly, there is a good deal of uncertainty in the situation. But SaskPower remains pragmatic, saying it is working hard to ensure those who signed up will receive a smart meter.

“Eventually, we will be able to provide a smart meter to every SaskPower customer,” the company was quoted as saying.