In Canada, the crisis of smart meters causing fires has taken a political turn as the Saskatchewan government has ordered electric utility SaskPower to remove all 105,000 of the smart units already installed in homes amid a ninth incident being reported.
SaskPower, which has issued an official apology to customers, has started replacement work this week and hopes to have it done in six months, said chief executive Robert Watson.
Making installation safer
SaskPower also said it was improving the safety of the devices, including how they are installed.
Mr Watson said: “We not only will be retraining the installation staff on new safety measures and additional safety measures, but we’ve added safety inspectors onto the process so that the process will be as safe as possible."
Who will pay for product recall?
The province pegs the replacement tab at $15 million, but the full cost of the program is expected to be $47 million once the defective meters are removed.
Watson said SaskPower may have to delay some projects to manage expenses, but the replacement cost won’t affect rates.
“With a $2-billion corporation, sometimes you have issues that are beyond your control and you have to fit it within your budget,” he said.
“The extra cost will be absorbed in our budget this year and we will not require any additional rate increases.”
However, opposition party NDP, which was quick to point the finger at SaskPower for poor meter installation, wants the Saskatchewan government and its power company to better explain how they will manage the expensive replacement of failed smart meters.
NDP Leader Cam Broten said people who live in the province will foot the bill unless the government can recover every dollar spent on the programme.
“What is unacceptable is for Saskatchewan rate payers to pick up the tab for this costly and dangerous error,” said Mr Broten this week.
“I know SaskPower made a statement saying they were sorry for the problem, and that’s good, but there needs to be an explanation as to where the $47 million will come from.”
External factors caused meter fires
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said the government will go after US smart meter manufacturer Sensus, which made the units for SaskPower's rollout, for a portion of the costs.
Sensus, which is conducting its own research into the fires, said that early indications suggest "external factors such as water intrusion due to holes in meter boxes, hot socket conditions in the meter box and over voltage in the distribution system" were causing the smart meters incidents.
The company says it has product design engineers and quality teams working closely with customers to understand the specific events that led to recent issues that impacted the iConA Generation 3 2S remote disconnect meters.
Sensus confirmed that data received from seven recent issues in an installed base of 175,000 meters points to contributing, long-standing industry issues: one was caused by an issue with a meter base attached to a home, three were caused by utility over voltage, two were caused by water intrusion through the meter base and one remains under investigation.