SaskPower’s smart meter rollout subject of independent probe

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In a further blow to Canadian state utility SaskPower’s smart meter rollout, an agency of the provincial government is conducting “a thorough review” of the programme.

Crown Investments Corporation (CIC), the holding company that manages the Government of Saskatchewan’s assets including utilities, has appointed consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers to review procurement and contract management.

Commenting on the independent enquiry into the smart meter programme, Dick Carter, president and chief executive officer of CIC, said: “There will be a public report issued at the conclusion of the review, with findings and recommendations. Were sound processes followed by SaskPower in selecting the meter supplier and installer?  What was the cause of the fires?  And what recourse is available to recover costs?  These are some of the questions that need to be answered by this review.”

CIC has also engaged Saskatoon law firm Robertson Stromberg and engineers Ritenburg and Associates of Regina to look at SaskPower’s legal options when it comes to recovering extra expenses.

The government expects a report containing recommendations will be released in late October.

Unqualified installation

Meawhile, opposition political party NDP has obtained documents showing the provincial government obtained an exemption to using qualified electrical workers for the installation of 100,000 smart meter units.

The exemption applied to both SaskPower and a private contractor, Grid One Solutions, which was allowed to hire “less-qualified” workers through a temp agency to install the Sensus meters, according to the papers acquired through freedom of information requests.

The Saskatchewan government then cancelled the exemption on August 1.

SaskPower responded to the allegations last week saying it is in compliance with all legislation in the province related to electrical workers. Spokesperson for the crown corporation, Tyler Hopson, told reporters SaskPower doesn’t know why the exemption was necessary or why it was lifted.

“That would be a question for the Ministry of Labour Relations. We were requested to make that exemption and so we followed suit and again we’ve been in compliance with legislation the entire time,” said Hopson.

The NDP also says the documents it obtained show that 150 unqualified workers were hired despite the fact that 50 electricians had applied to do the job.

Hopson responded to that saying, “there is a shortage of qualified electricians in Saskatchewan.”

Smart meter recall

Under government pressure, SaskPower has suspended the rollout and is in the process of removing and replacing all 105,000 of the smart meters with older units at an estimated cost of CA$47 million

And in a move to squash concerns about smart meters in other provinces of Canada, the Ontario Energy Board has confirmed that no utilities in Ontario use the Sensus Generation 3.3 meter, the model linked to nine fires in Saskatchewan.