Smart meter safety: Ontario recall prompts Sensus to defend products


Ontario smart meter recall prompts Sensus to defendIn Ontario, Canada, the Electrical Safety Authority’s decision to order utilities to remove 5,400 Sensus Generation 3.2 remote disconnect meters across the province due to safety concerns has prompted the North-Carolina-based meter manufacturer to defend its products.

The conclusion by the Electrical Safety Authority last week that “even though the probability of a serious event in Ontario is low …we have taken the proactive and prudent step and directed local distribution companies (LDCs) to remove these meters from service in order to eliminate any risk”, has seen Sensus speaking out against the decision.

Linda Palmer, director of corporate communications at Sensus, said: “We stand by our products,” in reference to the Sensus 3.2 smart meter being deemed a possible fire risk following nine house fires in Regina in 2014 that were believed to be related to faulty meter equipment.

Ms Palmer said the meters “have a perfect record in Ontario”.

“Our Ontario customers are satisfied with the operation of all of their Sensus meters — they have had no issues with the safety of their meters, which have been in operation for more than nine years,” she said in an email to a local Canadian media source.

She said: “We are disappointed with the decision by the Electrical Safety Authority and look forward to speaking with them to learn the basis for their decision.

Smart meter probe

The Electrical Safety Authority said it began investigating the meters after hearing of meters overheating in Saskatchewan province, said David Collie, president and CEO of the safety authority, in a statement.

Mr Collie said: “Although there were no serious incidents reported in Ontario involving these meters, when we learned of the events in Saskatchewan, we undertook a due diligence safety review to determine if there were any implications for Ontario.”

Collie said the other 45,000 or so Sensus 3.2 meters in Ontario are safe because they do not have the remote-disconnect feature used in seasonal properties such as cottages or trailers.

The agency has set a deadline of March 31 for the smart meter recall.

Cost of smart meter recall

Canada’s political party is looking to Sensus to foot the bill for the replacement of the meters, as happened in Saskatchewan in 2014.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s office said the company should pay to replace the meters, which cost about CAD500 (US$400) each.

“It is our expectation that the product manufacturer will undertake to fully compensate affected LDCs,” said Jennifer Beaudry, Chiarelli’s press secretary.

“We appreciate that it is up to the individual LDCs to work with the service provider, but expect Ontario customers to recover all costs associated with the replacement of the Sensus iConA Generation 3.2 with remote disconnect meters from the manufacturer, Sensus,” Ms Beaudry said in an email.

Customer communication

Meanwhile, the electricity distribution companies affected including Bluewater Power Distribution, which includes the bulk of the Sensus 3.2 remote disconnect meters in its service areas, have been quick to communicate with customers about the recall.

In a flurry of statements and local media reports at the weekend, the message to customers was your homes and businesses are safe.

Bluewater Power crews will start replacing about 3,500 recalled smart meters from today with Sensus iConA meters, which the utility’s CEO and president Janice McMichael-Dennis said is “just more of a standard smart meter”.