2016-08-28 BCUC is failing to protect the public
I have shared the response that BCUC sent me on July 28, 2016 in which they basically said that despite all of the many problems re. reporting, tracking, monitoring, etc., they choose to believe that there were no problems and said that there would be no formal report. It was up to me to provide more information to convince them that there is something wrong.
Below is my rebuttal, and the covering letter that has been sent to every MLA and every major media outlet. Please help by sharing this with friends, relatives, your MLA, media in your area, and with your responses to BCUC.
Director, Coalition to Stop Smart Meters
To: Every MLA and media outlet
After years of sending information about fires associated with smart meters, and evidence that many had failed, and having received in return responses from BCUC that their hands were tied by the Clean Energy Act, I lodged a formal complaint on July 13, 2015 in which I accused BCUC of failing to do its job as mandated by the BC Utilities Act. Under this Act one of BCUC’s prime duties is to ensure that service is provided to the public in a safe and efficient manner. I provided 6 examples (from the many that I have gathered over the years) to support my assertion that smart meters have caused fires, asking that an independent investigation be undertaken by experts in electrical engineering to determine if these devices were safe.
BCUC eventually agreed to review the information I’d provided, and in Feb, 2016 sent me a draft report, asking for my comments by early March. The draft, while incomplete, was damning. I identified shortfalls and provided data to substantiate my charges. The entire draft report with my responses can be found at http://www.stopsmartmetersbc.com/bcucs-staff-report-on-smart-meter-fire-safety-concerns-draft/.
On Jul 28, 2016 BCUC wrote to tell me that no final report would be forthcoming because, and I quote:
“At this time your complaint is closed as the evidence reviewed does not demonstrate an increased fire safety risk related to smart meters. However the Commission has determined that there are gaps in reporting incidents where the meter and/or meter base is the possible source of a high temperature or fire event and is directing BC Hydro and FortisBC to file semi-annual incident reports.”
1. Despite there being many infractions of laws and regulations
a) BC Hydro and Fortis remove meters from the scenes of fires before the fire inspection has been completed;
b) Office of the Fire Commission (OFC) does not receive fire reports in a timely manner and consistently;
c) Fire departments do not call BC Safety Authority to inspect the fire scene whenever the cause of the fire is believed to have been electrical in nature.
2. Despite there being no tracking of fires
a) BC Hydro does not track smart meter incidents after installation;
b) OFC does not have a code for smart meters and merely codes them as “electrical”.
c) Fire departments, in many instances, are not filing reports with the OFC or is doing so inconsistently or late. Annual reports are therefore incomplete and unreliable.
d) BC Safety Authority (BCSA) does not track fires that have been inspected for the largest communities in BC: Maple Ridge, Burnaby, No. Vancouver (City), No. Vancouver (District), Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria, West Vancouver.
3. Despite there being evidence from electrical engineers and admissions by certification bodies that these meters have design flaws that could pose fire hazards
BCUC has decided that there is no reason for concern and that it is up to the complainant, me, to provide sufficient additional evidence to persuade BCUC to do their job. Their formal response to me can be found at http://www.stopsmartmetersbc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BC-HydroFortisBC-Customer-Complaint-Smart-Meter-Fire-Safety-July-28-2016.pdf and below is my rebuttal.
It is high time that someone with authority take this matter seriously. Lives are at risk for no reason.
From: Sharon Noble
Sent: August 28, 2016
Subject: RESPONSE TO G-124-16_BCH-FBC-Smart Meter Safety Complaint (003) –2
Dear Ms. Ross,
Re: British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority and FortisBC Inc.
Customer Complaint – Smart Meter/Advanced Meter Fire Safety
July 13, 2015
I received your letter of July 28, 2016 along with the justification for your decision not to finalize the draft report on smart meter fire safety. I must admit to being not only frustrated by your decision but also confused by it and the basis upon which it was made. Rather than write a lengthy rebuttal of the summary you’ve provided, I will make my observations and comments. You are considering the file closed but I cannot because I have concerns which have yet to be addressed and are too important to be disregarded by the BCUC.
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[KEY: Highlighted text is from Sharon Noble]
1) “At this time your complaint is closed as the evidence reviewed does not demonstrate an increased fire safety risk related to smart meters. However the Commission has determined that there are gaps in reporting incidents where the meter and/or meter base is the possible source of a high temperature or fire event and is directing BC Hydro and FortisBC to file semi-annual incident reports.” (Covering Letter)
The BCUC agrees that the reporting of incidents has “gaps”, yet believes that there is evidence to support the supposition that smart meters do not increase risk of fires. This is inconsistent and illogical.
2) “The British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority and FortisBC Inc. are directed to report to the British Columbia Utilities Commission all incidents where a meter and/or meter base is reasonably assessed to be the possible or likely source of a high temperature or fire event that results in the meter and or meter base requiring replacement. All such incidents must be reported to the appropriate authority or authorities for investigation, as appropriate. If no such authority is appropriate, then the utility must conduct its own investigation as to the cause of the incident.” (Pg. 2/2)
Given that evidence shows that BC Hydro and the various agencies have failed to comply with regulations already in place, I have serious concerns that the recommendations made by BCUC will be enforced or followed. The fox-henhouse analogy seems appropriate in this situation.
a) Information regarding failed and burned meters, and their design flaws have been provided to many agencies, including the BCUC for years. Why has there been no independent investigation by a qualified forensic electrical expert to determine if the meters were safe or not? If these in fact are dangerous, lives and property are being put at risk.
b) What oversight will occur to ensure that incidents are reported consistently and correctly? They are supposed to be reported to the BCSA now and are not. How will BCUC know when there are “gaps”? It was not until I made my complaint and provided evidence that gaps occurred and regulations were not being followed that BCUC was aware that this was occurring.
c) BC Hydro and Fortis have not been ordered to follow all regulations, have not been ordered to require an inspection by BCSA for possible electrical fires, and have not been ordered to not remove meters from the scenes of fires before the BCSA and the fire/insurance inspectors have completed their investigations. What is changing from the current situation? Now that you have proof that laws are not being complied with, why is no one being reprimanded? What will be the penalties for future disregard of the laws?
d) BC Hydro and Fortis have not been ordered to submit for inspection all failed meters that have overheated but where fires were prevented. Without independent expert review of the failed meters, all other reporting is meaningless.
3) “While complainant states that “…[smart] meters are dangerous” and “should not be on homes in BC,” the Panel more precisely defines the issue as whether smart meters materially increase the risk of fires in BC over analog and digital meters already in use in British Columbia.” (Pg. 2/15 item 4.1)
What data are you basing this on? You already acknowledge that there is no data available. This is a red herring.
Smart meters cause fires. Analogs do not cause fires. I have asked BC Hydro for evidence that analogs have and could cause fires and have received nothing. This is because no evidence exists. I have asked firemen, fire inspectors, and insurance inspectors for evidence that analogs have caused fires and have been told they do not. Analogs are non-combustible, being made of glass and metal, and have no digital circuitry. Smart meters are combustible, made largely of plastic and they come with electrolytic capacitors or lithium batteries that explode if they get too hot. There is no comparison, so defining the issue as BCUC has is misleading and disingenuous. (see below for further examples)
Analogs withstand hot sockets better than smart meters. https://smartgridawareness.org/2014/10/16/analog-meters-withstand-hot-sockets-better-than-smart-meters/
Analogs immune to surges https://smartgridawareness.org/2015/06/29/utility-industry-aware-of-issues-with-digital-meters-for-years/ Note: smart meters are digital meters.
Digital Utility Meters Have “Voltage Transient Susceptibility”
Although the EPRI document was ostensibly written about meter “accuracy,” it reveals a fundamental safety weakness with regard to all digital meters (as compared with analog meters) in a section entitled, “Voltage Transient Susceptibility.” Quoting the document:
“The electronic circuits of solid state meters connect to the AC line to draw operating power and to perform voltage measurement. … A range of electronic clamping and filtering components are used to protect the electronics from these voltage surges, but these components have limitations. The ANSI C12.1 metering standard specifies the magnitude and number of surges that meters must tolerate. … In any case, surges that exceed the tested limits, either in quantity or magnitude, could cause meter damage or failure.”
“Electromechanical meters had no digital circuitry. They utilized spark-gaps to control the location of arc-over and to dissipate the energy of typical voltage events. As a result, they were generally immune to standard surge events. This nature is evidenced in the section of ANSI C12.1 that specifies voltage surge testing, but allows that ‘This test may be omitted for electromechanical meters and registers’.”
4) “On December 18, 2015, S.N. provided an email to the Commission with two hyperlinks. One hyperlink includes a discussion on a new Underwriters Laboratory (an American safety standard agency) voluntary safety standard for electric utility meters” (Pg. 6/15)
This letter ignores the relevant and most significant portion of the statement provided in the hyperlink about the new UL standard that acknowledges that smart meters have design flaws that concern utilities and meter companies re. fires. Is this because BCUC has no interest in finding out if these meters are fire hazards? An objective observer might conclude that BCUC has no problem allowing devices on our homes that put property and lives at risk.
5) “second provides an Answering Brief submitted to the United States of America National Labour Relations Board where statements from persons involved in the case regarding smart meters were cited including the following: “part of the problem was a loose connection between the meter and the meter base because the smart meters had thinner ‘blades’ than the previous analog meters” and “the loose connection caused heat, which, in turn, caused an electrical arc, which resulted in ‘two pallets of burned up meters’.” (Pg. 6/15)
The report does not mention that linesmen with many years of experience were warning that the smart meters were faulty and were causing fires. Neither does this report acknowledge that the smart meters that did not fit the meter base correctly, as referred to in the Answering Brief, were the ITRON Centron II meters, the same model used in BC. Neither does it mention that the meter bases have not been certified by CSA to hold a combustible smart meter.
6) “4.2.1 Fire reporting in BC Commission staff reviewed the fire reporting system in BC and found that data on reportable fires occurring in BC are collected by the OFC, under the authority of the Fire Services Act. Local fire departments must investigate and,report all fires to the OFC. In addition, if the cause of a fire is suspected to involve electrical equipment, the local fire department must notify the BC Safety Authority.6” (Pg. 6/15)
The summary ignores my evidence that in many instances the fires are not being reported to the OFC and the BCSA is not being notified when the fire cause is believed to have been electrical in nature. Saying that this is a legal requirement is one thing, but without oversight and penalties, these laws are meaningless. No one seems to have known before I presented the evidence and no one has confirmed that in fact this is happening. Without accurate data and with those responsible denying there is any problem, no meaningful conclusions can be made. This alone is sufficient to call for an independent investigation into the numerous deficiencies within the system. BCUC has the responsibility and the authority to demand corrective action and is doing nothing.
7) “SN has provided evidence of eight specific incidents. This evidence was used by the Commission to justify conducting this review of the complaint but it is not sufficiently comprehensive to be used directly to refute the OFC data which, as discussed above, is credible data for the whole province. The onus is on the complainant to present persuasive evidence or a persuasive case to support their complaint; in this case, S.N. has not done that.” (Pg. 9/15)
A major reason for my complaint is that BCUC is not performing its duties according to the BC Utilities Commission Act and I have provided damning evidence to support this assertion.
I have provided strong evidence to warrant concern and action, yet BCUC is giving credence to OFC data which is incomplete and inaccurate over 8 specific incidents where smart meters have failed and burned. I limited the number I provided to 8 because that was sufficient for the government of Saskatchewan to take action. May I ask how many incidents would be sufficient for you acknowledge there is a problem? 12? 20? Please let me know and I will provide that information.
Even though I am not an expert and am not being paid, as are those reviewing and refuting this information, the onus is being put on me to provide evidence that the smart meters are fire hazards. Rather it is the BCUC and BC Hydro who rightly have the responsibility to ensure that an electrical device that is being put on our homes is safe and I charge that to do otherwise is a failure of duty. This clearly is an indication that duty is not being done by the very agencies responsible for protecting the public.
Why hasn’t the BCUC consulted with forensic fire experts and independent electrical engineers? If you don’t look, you cannot find. Likewise if you don’t want to find, you don’t look.
8) “The Panel relies on the OFC data reported in the Garis Report because, in the view of the Panel, the fire reporting data from the OFC under the authority of the Fire Services Act is authoritative for BC. Despite the allegations made by S.N. that some fire reports are never submitted to the OFC and that some reports are submitted late the Panel considers that the reporting requirements of the Fire Services Act provide a legal requirement which supports the credibility ofthe data. As well, the Panel finds that the Garis Report is credible because it reports the OFC data and Mr. Garis, a Fire Chief and academic, is a credible author for such a report.” (Pg. 12/15)
With all due respect, this statement makes no sense.
The BCUC is ignoring the fact that the requirements of the Fire Services Act are not being followed, as I’ve proven. Reports are not being filed as required yet BCUC is pretending they are, just as Mr. Garis has. These are not my allegations, they are facts. I have proof. I sent you 2 examples. Do you want more? I have many.
Mr. Garis is a fire chief. I have found no evidence that he has credentials that would support the faith that BCUC places in his conclusions. Even though Garis was commissioned by and paid by Hydro for the report, he is considered unbiased.
Even though I am not paid by anyone and I have shown, and the BCUC has acknowledged, that the information the OFC used for annual reports is incomplete (with many fires missing or reported as being “undetermined” due to missing meters, for example), my evidence is ignored. The BCUC finds Mr. Garis’s conclusion credible even though it is based on this incomplete, inaccurate data. I submit that an academic has the responsibility to ensure that the data being used is correct, complete, or would make a note should there be some that is not. This is not an academic paper and to present it as such demonstrates a lack of integrity by all involved.
Again, with all due respect, garbage in, garbage out.
9) “This evidence was used by the Commission to justify conducting this review of the complaint but it is not sufficiently comprehensive to be used directly to refute the OFC data which, as discussed above, is credible data for the whole province. The onus is on the complainant to present persuasive evidence or a persuasive case to support their complaint; in this case, S.N. has not done that.” (Pg. 12/15)
The evidence I gave was as examples to refute the statement in the draft which said that all fires must be reported to the OFC (implying that they were). As I said in my comments, I have documentation that shows that a very high percentage of fire reports are not reported within the timeframe required by law, and many fires are not reported at all. In fact, many of the fires were reported only after I requested the report from the OFC, often many months, even years after the incident occurred. This data is the basis for the OFC annual report that Mr. Garis used for his report upon which the BCUC is depending. It appears that because this is such important information that the BCUC should be following up with the OFC. This is BCUC’s job – not mine. The onus is not mine.
10) “In regards to S.N.’s further four requests, the Panel has authority over public utilities under the UCA. While the Panel acknowledges that overlapping jurisdictions among various public agencies can be problematic, the Commission does not have the legislative authority to address requests related to other agencies. S.N. may choose to address her concerns with the relevant agencies, including the OFC, discussed in these reasons.” (Pg. 13/15)
The BCUC may not have legislative authority to address requests, but certainly it must have the obligation to advise the government when a major problem has been identified. The overlapping of jurisdictions is one thing, but major gaps in reporting that lead to inaccurate, incomplete knowledge or reporting of data about issues that pertain to public safety is another. To suggest that I deal with the OFC is indicative that no one is in charge. I repeat, BCUC is not doing its job.
11) The statements from the electrical engineers were ignored, and attributed to me, a person who admits to having no expertise in the field of electrical engineering, just because the engineers didn’t use their names. Does the lack of names make the information invalid, unworthy of being confirmed with electrical experts? Why didn’t the BCUC demand that an independent forensic electrical engineer inspect the ITRON smart meter, its design, and the reported flaws to determine if in fact the design flaws could lead to fires? This is major shortfall in BCUC’s decision. (Pg. 6/15, point 4.5)
Bottom line, BCUC admits that the reporting is poor, there are significant gaps in the data gathering, and that regulations are being broken. Despite all of this, BCUC has decided that there is no reason for concern about the safety of combustible devices that are on nearly 2 million homes and businesses in BC. Further BCUC, despite admissions of major problems with data and monitoring, sees no reason to finalize the draft report. I find it curious that much of the significant information that is in the draft report and the comments that were given as requested were omitted from this summary. Why was this valuable data excised?
It appears to me, and I believe it will appear to anyone who reads this, that the BCUC is abdicating its responsibility under the Utilities Commission Act sections 23 (2) (which was omitted from your description of your legislative authority, page 1/15) and 38, and instead is asking me to continue to monitor and report shortfalls in the system. (highlighting in Sections 23 and 38 below is mine)
General supervision of public utilities
23 (1) The commission has general supervision of all public utilities and may make orders about
(c) safety devices,
(d) extension of works or systems,
(e) filing of rate schedules,
(f) reporting, and
(g) other matters it considers necessary or advisable for
(i) the safety, convenience or service of the public, or
(ii) the proper carrying out of this Act or of a contract, charter or franchise involving use of public property or rights.
(2) Subject to this Act, the commission may make regulations requiring a public utility to conduct its operations in a way that does not unnecessarily interfere with, or cause unnecessary damage or inconvenience to, the public
Public utility must provide service
38 A public utility must
(a) provide, and
(b) maintain its property and equipment in a condition to enable it to provide, a service to the public that the commission considers is in all respects adequate, safe, efficient, just and reasonable.
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The BC Utilities Commission is obligated under the BC Utilities Commission Act to protect the public. It is failing in this regard and the public deserves to know it. When the next home burns, and should lives be lost, you cannot say you didn’t know. You are on notice.
This will be sent widely to every MLA, the media, and 20,000 Coalition members.