Metering in Canada


In Smart Energy International issue 1/2003 we featured the responses of the Canadian Electricity Association to a series of questions regarding the electricity industry in the country, and in particular the situation regarding metering and measurement. Now it is the turn of Canada’s regulatory body Measurement Canada to respond.

MI: What are the responsibilities of Measurement Canada?  

AJ: Since the establishment of Canada as a nation in 1867, its government has played a pivotal role in ensuring its citizens receive accurate measure when purchasing or selling goods and services. Today Measurement Canada, an agency of the Department of Industry, fulfills the government’s constitutional responsibility through the administration of the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act.

With respect to electricity, Measurement Canada develops legislated requirements related to electricity meter design, accuracy performance, testing and sealing. We evaluate and approve new prototype meters for use in Canada, and calibrate and certify the accuracy of electricity meter test consoles and other measurement standards used to verify the accuracy of electricity meters. We also verify and re-certify meters in accordance with legislated schedules, conduct investigations where the accuracy of the electricity meter is in dispute, accredit private sector organisations to provide verification services on our behalf and regularly audit these organisations to ensure they continue to meet agreed standards of performance.

MI: How do Measurement Canada and the Canadian Electricity Association work together?  

AJ: As the organisation responsible for overseeing measurement accuracy in the Canadian marketplace, Measurement Canada works closely with a broad spectrum of stakeholders during the development of new requirements, policies and procedures. These include the Canadian Electricity Association, electricity meter manufacturers, local distribution companies, accredited organisations, business and consumers. Stakeholder views and ideas are obtained via joint Measurement Canada/industry working groups, focus sessions, targeted consultation on specific issues, the annual Canadian Forum on Trade Measurement and informal meetings. In the near future, the Canadian Electricity Association and other stakeholders will also play a larger role assisting Measurement Canada in monitoring the accuracy of measurement in the electricity sector.

MI: What is the present situation as regards deregulation (both in Ontario and in the country as a whole) and is it likely to affect metering/measurement in any way?

AJ: The province of Alberta was first with what was a two-stage deregulation of its market, beginning with large power generators and large consumers (such as local distribution companies) and then the retail market. Ontario was the second province to introduce deregulation, choosing to deregulate both the wholesale and retail markets simultaneously. In December 2002, the Ontario provincial government introduced legislation to lower hydro prices (rates were frozen at 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour until at least 2006) and promote conservation, encourage alternative fuels, and support additional clean energy production. The provincial government also recently decided to retain complete ownership of Hydro One, the electricity transmission and distribution company. 

Measurement Canada has worked closely with provincial bodies and energy boards to ensure that participants in a deregulated market continue to meet their obligations under the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act. As a result of changes made to consumer billing information under provincial deregulation, we have experienced an increase in enquiries from residential electricity customers regarding the role and mandate of Measurement Canada, the province and energy boards and utilities regarding how energy charges are established.

Deregulation of the electricity market, and specifically the issue of fluctuating prices and the manner in which a unit price is allocated to a measured quantity, has raised interest in electricity measurement methodologies which traditionally have not been evident at the retail level (e.g., metering technologies which provide retail consumers with the ability to take advantage of off-peak pricing). In response, we have launched a consultation initiative to obtain the views of meter manufacturers, provincial regulators, utilities and consumers regarding new metering technologies and functions, and Measurement Canada’s role in how to maintain measurement accuracy in a deregulated marketplace. 

MI: What changes do you see taking place in the next few years?  

AJ: The electricity measurement industry in Canada has evolved considerably in recent years, with advances in metering technology, deregulation and consumer awareness. While the effects of recent changes in measurement practices are difficult to quantify, they have resulted in efficiencies for the electricity metering industry, greater flexibility for the users of metering devices, and a more informed consumer.

In response, Measurement Canada has undertaken a new direction to address the changes taking place in the Canadian and international marketplace. Some specific initiatives include:

Increased use of alternative service delivery mechanisms to deliver legislated services

Thirty-six organisations are now responsible for verifying approximately 90% of the electricity meters in Canada. To become accredited, interested organisations must implement a quality assurance programme (based on ISO requirements) and comply with Measurement Canada’s accreditation standard (S-A-01) which stipulates additional technical requirements. We perform regular audits to ensure compliance with the programme. Measurement Canada’s Accreditation Programme Quality Management System is ISO 9002:1994 registered.

In May 2003, Measurement Canada expanded its alternative service delivery programme to give accredited organisations which meet established requirements the authority to calibrate and re-certify electricity meter calibration consoles on our behalf.

Review and renewal of rules, requirements, policies and procedures to reduce the burden of regulatory compliance and decrease barriers to the introduction of new technology

Since the implementation of the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act in 1986, electronic-type energy and demand meters have been subject to initial verification and periodic re-verification at fixed six-year intervals, with all inspections being performed on 100% of the meters.

In 2002, Measurement Canada introduced options to allow both the initial verification of new meters and the re-verification of meters in service to be performed on the basis of sampling inspection. The sampling requirements for initial verification make direct use of the relevant ISO standards on acceptance: ISO 2859-1:1999 at an acceptable quality limit (AQL) of 1.0% for lot-by-lot inspection of meters produced in a continuing series (typically occurring at the meter manufacturing level) and ISO 2859-2:1985 at a limiting quality (LQ) of 3.15% for isolated lot inspection (typically occurring at the utility level, where utilities want to verify their own meters).

The sampling requirements for the re-verification of meters in service are based on the concept of the isolated lot inspection requirements, and involve the calculation of special sampling plans using a narrow-limit technique to keep sample sizes reasonable while preserving the same level of control which has been applied in the past (95% confidence that 99% of the measurement errors are within the legal limits of 3.0%). Experience thus far has been positive, with almost all the meters inspected reflecting performance errors within 1.0% after six years of use. We will continue to collect additional information in 2003.

In a related initiative, Measurement Canada is implementing a reliability assurance programme to determine meter reliability and optimal re-verification periods objectively. Traditionally, meters have been assigned fixed re-verification periods, based on broad classifications which did not reflect the intrinsic reliability of the various meter designs and technologies. Extensions to these re-verification periods (through sampling inspection) have also been largely arbitrary and may not represent a meter’s true extension entitlement.

The assurance programme will require reliability information (such as design analysis and accelerated degradation test results) to be provided at the time of pattern approval for new meters, and will collect and model performance degradation data for meters in service. The programme is expected to provide a more appropriate basis for setting initial re-verification periods, and an objective foundation for adjusting these periods based on actual meter performance over time.

Identification of sectors where direct intervention is necessary to ensure accurate measurement, and other sectors where less intervention is possible

Measurement forms the basis of financial transactions in 39 of the 75 major industry sectors in Canada. As the number of sectors in which trade measurement occurs grew and the demand for our services increased, we found that we could no longer rely solely on traditional methods to achieve our legislated mandate, maintain adequate presence in the market-place and meet client service expectations. In response, we have undertaken a long-term strategy to review each of the 39 sectors, seeking stakeholders’ views and ideas on the role of Measurement Canada, manufacturers, service providers, business and consumers in how measurement accuracy is achieved and monitored in each sector.

In 2001, Measurement Canada concluded its review of the electricity sector. The resultant recommendations demonstrated that industry, business and consumers wanted us to:

  • Continue to establish rules and requirements (based on internationally recognised standards, where appropriate)
  • Approve electricity meters for use in Canada
  • Provide electricity measurement standards certification to maintain traceability to international standards
  • Serve as investigator and facilitator of last resort when inaccurate electricity measurement is suspected
  • Accredit organisations to provide meter verification services. 

The stakeholders also recommended an increased role for industry, through:

  • the provision of meter verification services by accredited entities;
  • assisting in the monitoring of the accuracy performance of the sector;
  • contributing to the development of rules and requirements; and
  • providing insight and advice regarding future service needs and trends in metering technology.

Specific initiatives in response to the recommendations include piloting the use of a consensus-based national standards system for the development of a new electricity measurement related specification, establishment of a national monitoring system which will include meter performance information provided by both stakeholders and Measurement Canada, and piloting the establishment of an industry and consumer based Advisory Panel on Electricity Measurement.

MI: Thank you for your input.