Two more smart meters start on fire in Saskatchewan
SaskPower continues to investigate cause of failures
An eighth smart meter has caught fire in Saskatchewan since SaskPower started installing thousands across the province.
The Saskatchewan government has ordered its power utility SaskPower to remove 105,000 so-called smart meters installed at homes and businesses across the province, following concerns about eight unexplained fires associated with the units.
The minister responsible for the provincial Crown corporation, Bill Boyd, announced the move Wednesday.
..."The concerns are significant enough that we believe that any time that families are at risk here in Saskatchewan, actions have to be taken. That's why we've directed SaskPower accordingly."
Questions about the meters surfaced in July when SaskPower announced it was investigating a handful of cases where newly installed meters malfunctioned. In all cases, the failures only affected the outside of a home and no one was hurt.
SaskPower had put its meter replacement program on hold while it investigated the fires. As of Monday, eight had been reported.
Sensus Corporation, the company that supplied the meters, said in a statement to CBC News Wednesday that it has millions of meters operating safely across North America.
"We have no confirmation that the meter is the source [of the fire problems]," the statement said. "We are working with SaskPower to understand what specific events led to those issues and to determine the best course of action. The investigation is still underway."
Sensus is a multinational company servicing the utility industry with headquarters in the U.S. and operations around the world.
Cost of swap could reach $14M
According to officials, it will take about six to nine months to swap out the meters already installed. That is expected to cost about $90 per customer — $45 for a different meter and $45 for the work. That works out to around $9.5 million for the entire province. SaskPower also has a cache of more than 100,000 new devices in storage that will not be used.
Later on Wednesday, SaskPower indicated it expected the total cost could reach $14 million.
It was not immediately clear who would cover the costs associated with the swap. Boyd said he hoped to recoup the money from the company that supplied the meters.
The smart meters, which are manufactured by Sensus Corporation, allow SaskPower to bill customers for the power they use each month rather than relying on estimates between meter readings. The utility introduced the replacement program in October 2013.
No changes for some Saskatoon residents
The government's move applies to customers of SaskPower throughout the province, but does not apply to parts of Saskatoon that receive service from that city's power and light utility. According to Saskatoon officials, their meter replacement program, which uses a different supplier, has not had any problems.
"We have not heard any reports of problems with the Elster brand meters," Kevin Hudson, a Saskatoon city official, said in a statement Wednesday.