Canadian electric utility SaskPower has put its smart meter rollout on hold while it investigates six fires related to the installation of the measurement units, according to local media sources.
The national energy company for the state of Saskatchewan has already installed 105,000 smart meter units but has seen the fires occur during installation over the past month-and-a-half.
The utility is keen to play down the incidences with utility spokesman Tyler Hopson saying: “It is a small number [of fires]. Smart meters have been tested by us, and others, to ensure safety standards are met. So we think the risk is fairly low.
“We’ve reassured customers that by and large the meters are safe. We’re looking after all damages and repairs at our cost.”
Meter or installation?
Questions are being raised about whether the fault lies with the units themselves or the installation process.
The Canadian political opposition party NDP is pointing the finger at installation and is calling on the Government of Saskatchewan for tougher regulations.
NDP SaskPower critic Cathy Sproule has accused the company of cutting corners and hiring installers that don’t meet provincial standards, saying: “They’re very high-powered units. We want to make sure people are safe. We expect the government and SaskPower to demonstrate that.”
The NDP says SaskPower contractor Grid One is taking advantage of a government exemption for less qualified workers.
However, SaskPower president Robert Watson says that’s simply not the case. “They’re properly trained according to what the regulations say. We’re not skirting anything. These are fully trained, capable installers.”
Watson says a team is looking into what went wrong with the meter swaps but for now SaskPower remains committed to the new technology.
SaskPower plans to install a total of 500,000 new smart meters by 2015.