Segment #15 – Meter Incidents – Installation Incidents

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 #15

Below, BCUC acknowledges that BC Hydro’s statistics are incomplete. BC Hydro says that it has had only 19 incidents during installation. I have a report obtained through an FOI with 157 incidents and that report did not contain several incidents I found through other sources.  BCUC itself says that BC Safety Authority has reported on incidents that are not included in BC Hydro’s report. What more evidence does the BCUC need to require oversight into this dangerous program?

Sharon Noble

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Meter Incidents

Installation Incidents

Table 5 below shows the number of incidents that caused equipment damage or fire as reported by the utility during meter installation in response to a Commission request.

Table 5: Incidents causing equipment damage or fire during Installation

BC Hydro FortisBC
Incidents for 1,930,000installs rate per million installs Incidents for 124,409installs rate per million installs
19 10 0 0
  • BC Hydro reports only 19 incidents. In one report obtained via an FOI request, for the period Sept. 11, 2011- Sept 8, 2014,  BC Hydro listed 157 incidents that resulted in damage to the meter, to appliances, to the buildings during the meter exchange or shortly thereafter. This report is not complete. I have found incidents that fall into this category but which were not included in this internal document maintained by BC Hydro.  BC Hydro is not tracking incidents during installation. None of its statistics can be considered credible.
  • It is obvious that there needs to be a thorough investigation of this issue by an independent group. Why is there no oversight into this program which puts lives and property at risk?

Interpretation of the incident rates needs to be done carefully giving consideration to the completeness of the data or lack thereof. Still it is noteworthy that FortisBC reports no incidents at time of install which indicates that its testing and conservative meter base replacement practice is having a positive effect on reducing installation incidents.
Comment:  OR that its reporting system for field operatives is incomplete. See this Report’s comment on BC Hydro in next paragraph. Of note, FortisBC used the same installation contractor as BC Hydro.

Comment: Here it might be instructive to describe the IBEW agreement to allow non-electricians to carry out meter change-outs, and using an incentive plan for the installers. Were the same incentives in place for the contractors hired by both of the Utilities? How confident is the BCUC that all incidents involving meter change-out were reported? See the next paragraph.

There is evidence that BC Hydro’s reporting of the incidents that occurred during installation is not comprehensive. In 2012, the BC Safety Authority previously provided the Commission with its smart meter related incidents reports. The file contains 9 reports, 5 of which relate to incidents that occurred during meter installation. Of these 5 incident reports, 2 have no corresponding event reported by BC Hydro. BC Hydro described the cause of the 19 installation incidents it reported as meter socket or installation error related which is further supported by photographic evidence and the available BC Safety Authority reports. The failures of meter socket components appears as portions of the meter socket breaking away and making contact with the grounded enclosure causing arcing, heating and fire.

Comment: See the notes added above in the section: BC Safety Authority referring to the sparse reports and unresolved incident descriptions from the BCSA.