Smart meter fires: Sensus now faces scrutiny in Ontario


US smart meter manufacturer Sensus is bracing itself for further controversy as other Canadian utilities say they will investigate the use of Sensus units in their service areas in the wake of nine fires in Saskatchewan associated with the company’s products. 

In the province of Ontario spokesperson for the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Alan Findlay said an investigation into the use of Sensus smart meters in Ontario is underway.

“What I can say, however, is that the handful of utilities who have reported having some of the same type of Sensus meter have reported no safety issues with the meter,” Findlay said in an e-mail to Sun Media.

The Sensus Generation 3 models have been used by PowerStream in communities north of Toronto and central Ontario. They say over 320,000 Sensus smart meters have been installed the past seven years and they’ve used three different models over that time but haven’t had any fires.

Political stirring

The Ontario opposition political party NDP, which is driving the media furore around the smart meter fires, is calling on the provincial government to investigate the situation and confirm whether any properties in the province were outfitted with the same model of smart meters that are suspected to have caused eight fires in Saskatchewan.

NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky said the energy ministry has had enough time since learning that Saskatchewan is removing the meters to determine if any Ontario homes are at risk, but there has been no public update.

“I think it’s incumbent on the government to investigate fully whether or not we actually have these questionable smart meters installed in our homes and to act quickly,” Gretzky said. “The people of Ontario deserve to know whether or not their safety is at risk.”

However, the provincial energy minister has no immediate plans to replace smart meters. Beckie Codd-Downey, a spokeswoman for Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, said: “We note that the investigation into the cause of the incidents is still in progress and that it has not yet been determined whether the issues originated from the meter itself versus an issue with the meter base or as a result of the installation process.”

Electricity utility SaskPower is replacing all 105,000 installed smart meters under orders from the Saskatchewan provincial government.

Sensus defends safety standards

Sensus has issued a statement saying that its site inspections point to “external factors,” such as water intrusion due to holes in meter boxes, as a cause for the problems rather than a flaw in the product.

Randy Bays, president of Sensus, said: “Safety is our number one priority and all Sensus meters go through rigorous testing and meet or exceed industry safety standards.

“I have been personally involved with our customers and Sensus quality and engineering teams as we work to collect fact-based and data-driven information on these specific incidents.”