Segment #10 – Standards and Meter Compatibility (cont’d)

RESPONSE TO “BCUC’s Staff Report on Smart Meter Fire Safety Concerns

KEY:  Highlighted text is from Sharon Noble  Non-highlighted text is the draft report as written by BCUC staff.

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Segment #10

In this section, BCUC acknowledges that the meter bases are designed for the analogs, but tries to assure that the bases and $$smart meters are compatible. How can this be if CSA has never certified them together, as it did with the analog meter?

Sharon Noble

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Standards and Meter Compatibility (continued)

Concerns have been raised that existing meter bases were not designed for modern electric “smart” meters.   The question of compatibility is applicable to manufacturers of both meter sockets and electric meters regardless of the type of meter. For example, existing meters that no longer meet accuracy testing are typically replaced by newer digital or smart meters as the existing vintage may no longer be supported by the manufacturer or procured by the utility. Standards are developed and maintained for this purpose so that for example the receptacle for your home wall outlet will be compatible with the devices you purchase to plug into the outlet now and many years from now until an entirely new standard is created. In the case of electrical meters, there are a number of standards used in North America specific to meter sockets and meters. Some standards cover the performance and accuracy of meters and others cover the physical aspects.

Standard making bodies involved in meter socket and meter standards in North America include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Other testing and certification bodies represent insurers such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) may have both US and Canadian standard versions (UL and ULC).  (continued)

Table 2: Applicable standards for meters and meter sockets

CSA ANSI Other
Meter Socket C22.2 115-14 C12.7
Meter CAN3-C17 – physical and accuracy C12.10 – physical C12.20 – accuracy Measurement Canada LMB-EG-07 – accuracy
The current CSA standard C22.2 115-14, covering the meter socket is the sixth edition replacing previous editions published in 1989, 1983, 1971, 1967, and 1963. The BC Safety Authority through the Electrical
8 Section 23, General supervision of public utilities,

 

The meter socket that currently is on homes was certified by CSA in conjunction with the analog meter. Never has it been certified to hold anything besides the analog, and certainly not a digital meter. There has been no independent certification of these meters except by Measurements Canada to ensure accuracy.

Safety Regulation requires approved certification marks for non-utility electrical products such as meter sockets. A CSA mark on the product ensures that the Certification Body has confirmed that the product meets the CSA standards applicable to that product for the intended service.

Comment: At this point it is critical to point out that the CSA Standard governing meter bases specifically prohibits its use as a load-current interrupting device. BC Hydro was advised by Registered letter dated 7 May 2014 that using the meter and base to interrupt load current (“Homeowners do not need to be home when a meter is changed out”) violated the CSA Certification of the homeowners’ base and causes arcing erosion of the contact stabs. This warning was ignored and BC hydro continues the practice. This practice by the Utilities needs to be critically examined by the BCUC and appropriate action must be taken.

CSA C22.2 115-14, section 5.12 addresses compatibility with the meter.

5.12 Compatibility
To provide compatibility with meters complying with CSA CAN3-C17, the dimensions of the meter socket rings, the envelope of surfaces, and the position of the meter jaws with respect to the central axis of the meter socket and to each other shall comply with Figures 4 to 12 inclusive of this Standard. The meter envelope is derived from figures registered in CSA CAN3-C17.

It is clear that the CSA standards (C22.2 115 and CAN3 -C17) reference each other for the purpose of ensuring physical compatibility. This integration of compatibility into the standard ensures that issues of physical compatibility are being considered by both standard making bodies which would include compatibility of new to older versions.  So although the statement that the older meter sockets were not designed (specifically) for new meters may ring true, the fact is that meters and meter sockets installed in BC are designed to a common standard that considers the compatibility of the meter to the meter socket and vice versa.

  • The ITRON Openway meter used in BC is the very same meter that failed and burned “by the palette” in Texas according to legal testimony. It is logical to assume the same “common standards” were used there as in British Columbia. It seems, therefore, that the standards that are being used are inadequate for these meters.

According to CSA (http://shop.csa.ca/en/canada/electrical-engineering-standards/can3-c17-m84-r2015/invt/27017261984) “1.1.1 This Standard does not provide details pertaining to meter mounting devices.”

Comment: Note that it is the responsibility of the Manufacturer and the Purchaser to ensure that the devices meet the physical and performance requirements of the Purchase Order, assuming that there are no Codes and Standards mandated by BC Law. This is usually accomplished by random testing, review of the Quality Control procedures and the Quality Assurance documentation and verification by the Purchaser’s Professional Engineer knowledgeable in that field. It also requires follow-up from reported incident cases of, for example hot-sockets so that improvements to practices can be accomplished. This does NOT appear to be the case with the smart meter implementation.

In the absence of any Standards, the BCUC needs to be able to validate and to document the accuracy of the content and veracity of such Utility procedures, since it is presently not done.

From correspondence with BC Hydro, it appears that any failed meters are returned to Itron and are not examined by BC Hydro or its Laboratory, leading to the assumption that any follow-up to improve Hydro Practices does not occur. In addition, it would appear that the Quality Control and Quality Assurance steps have been delegated to Itron and do not take place within the BC Hydro Organization, so third-party quality control and assurance has not been demonstrated.