Segment #14 – Meter Related Incident Reporting for BC – Meter Socket Repair Frequency

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 #14

This segment of the BCUC response pertains to BC Hydro’s and FortisBC’s “incidents” during and after installation. NOTE  that under Table 3, BC Hydro says the information about $$meter repairs is “anecdotal”, meaning it isn’t based on facts.  BC Hydro admits that it DOES NOT TRACK AFTER-INSTALLATION INCIDENTS.   How can it claim that there have been no fires if I am the only one tracking them?

FortisBC’s repair rate is 4 times that of BC Hydro because it is checking for damaged sockets with a tool that BC Hydro did not use – a hot socket gap indicator. BC Hydro was careless, resulting in damages both during installations and after. Homes could have damaged sockets that have yet to cause problems.

Sharon Noble

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Meter Related Incident Reporting for BC

BC Hydro and FortisBC were requested to provide certain information related to the electrical incidents during and post implementation of their meter replacement programs. The sections below summarize and discuss those results.

Meter Socket Repair Frequency

Meter socket repair frequency numbers need to be viewed with caution as they may be recorded inconsistently. A repair may be as simple as tightening an electrical connector, replacing a jaw or replacing the whole meter socket. A description of meter socket issues is provided in Appendix A.

Table 3: BC Hydro Socket Repairs (no hot socket gap indicator16)

Legacy Meters Smart Meter
Meter socket repairs for 54,640 installs Rate per million installs Meter socket repairs for 124,409installs Rate per million installs
35* 1,000 2,483 1,300

* Anecdotal estimate of annual numbers from Field Metering managers.

Given that the frequency of meter sockets repairs is not recorded consistently, the statistics in Table 3 are meaningless.

13 Home Electric Fires, National Fire Protection Association, 2013.

14 Electric Power Annual 2013, U.S. energy Information Administration, Table 10.10.

  15 Home Structure Fires Involving Electrical Distribution or Lighting Equipment, National Fire Protection Association, 2008.

  16 TESCO, a private company providing electric meter testing equipment and metering accessories, developed a Hot Socket Gap Indicator which is used to determine if a meter socket jaw has become worn-out and unsafe for continued use. The Hot Socket Gap Indicator determines unsafe holding force on meter socket jaws. The Hot Socket Gap Indicator was developed as a result of research on detecting hot sockets focused during the installation process.

BC Hydro reports a similar frequency of meter socket repair prior to and during their smart meter program.  Comment: This BCUC report states that BC Hydro is not tracking the after-installation incidents, so BC Hydro/BCUC are not aware of the scale of the problem, nor is it able, or willing to share data with users such as IBEW, Homeowners, and the BCSA.  BC Hydro relied on contract installers and its electricians to assess the meter base condition and determine repairs and did not utilize any special tools like the hot socket gap indicator.

Please explain why “anecdotal estimates are given any credence and how they can be used as the basis for any comparison.

Table 4: FortisBC Socket Repairs (hot socket gap tester used on most installs but not in Trail)

Legacy Meters Smart Meter
Meter socket repairs for 54,640 installs Rate per million installs Meter socket repairs for 124,409installs Rate per million installs
13* 240 768 6,200

* Actual numbers for 2006 through 2011

Comment: Please explain why the numbers “54,640” and “124,409” appear in both of the BC Hydro and the FortisBC Tables? If a sample selection was made, how were the incidents in each of these 54,640 samples chosen? Was the sampling done based on geography or time-based, or other factors?

Prior to the AMI project, FortisBC’s meter socket recorded repair rate was approximately 4 times less than BC Hydro’s rate. Please explain why.  During the AMI project FortisBC’s frequency of repairing meter sockets increased to approximately 27 times the prior rate. FortisBC attributes this increased meter socket repair to the use of the hot socket gap indicator tool in conjunction with a “conservative approach.” FortisBC described the hot socket gap indicator as helping to identify potential meter base problems by

9)    Mechanical test of the tension on each of the base socket jaws,
10)    Additional time inspecting the jaws using the tool
11)    Exposing cracks in the meter base insulating block (that holds the jaws).

During the AMI project, FortisBC repaired meter sockets at nearly 5 times the rate of BC Hydro.

  • These numbers indicate that BC Hydro was careless, resulting in many more incidents than FortisBC.
  • In one incident which was included in BCSA’s annual report for 2012,  during live exchange, the meter and meter base were damaged. The Corix installer volunteered that he/she had received only 8 hours training.
  • During FortisBC’s hearing before the BCUC, the issue involving BC Hydro’s use of inadequately trained contract help was raised.  This may have resulted in more careful installations and the significantly higher rate of repairs being made.

Comment: The use of the “hot socket gap indicator” or HSGI occurred in the USA over several years and with FortisBC. A question then arises as to why BC Hydro did not apply the same diligence to its operations? What steps does BC Hydro need to take for its ongoing operations?