Smart meter fires raise concern

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Lisa Goudy
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SaskPower halts installation of more smart meters

Pam Moffatt doesn’t have a smart meter, but she’d be concerned right now if she did.

SaskPower

“We have a kid and we live in a basement,” she said. “If it causes a fire, that would be a problem.”

Moffatt, a resident of Moose Jaw, added that her mother in Regina had a problem recently because of a new smart meter installed by SaskPower. The power went out, but she added SaskPower came to fix it right away.

“She was kind of upset,” said Moffatt. “She has an old house.”

SaskPower has installed 14,611 smart meters in Moose Jaw and 105,000 across Saskatchewan since the program began in October 2013. Earlier this week, putting in the new smart meters across the province was put on hold because of six fires associated with the installation of the new meters.

“We’ve stopped installing meters for additional customers right now while we determine the root cause of the meter failures and will determine next steps after that is complete,” said Heather Johnson, spokesperson for SaskPower in an email to the Times-Herald.

As soon as investigations are complete and all risks have been moderated to the best of SaskPower’s ability, smart meter installations will continue. By 2015, SaskPower plans to install 500,000 new meters.

Of the six fires, Johnson said none of them were located in Moose Jaw. One fire was in Regina, another was in Saskatoon and the others were in rural areas and smaller locations. According to the SaskPower website, meter failures are the result of “apparent heating at the meter.”

That has been reported in six instances or 0.006 per cent of the total smart meters installed. The problems have all been contained to the meter’s location.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers,” said Johnson in her email. “If they wish, we’ll send someone out to inspect their meter at no cost.”

The SaskPower website said the smart meters track power usage electronically and send that information over a secure network to SaskPower. Customers will only be charged for the amount of power they use each month instead of estimates.

The cost of the program is $190 million or $380 per meter, which is “in line with the North American average,” the website said.

“All meters will be tested within our own facilities for electrical, environmental, physical, security, electronics and software issues before being installed on customers’ premises,” it said. “Our installers will always check the meter bases that the smart meter is to be installed upon.”

Johnson added if customers have any additional concerns or questions, they could call SaskPower at 1-855-877-0975 or 1-888-757-6937.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy

Organizations: SaskPower, Times-Herald, North American

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatchewan Saskatoon

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