Segment #19 – Observations (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.


Segment #19

The BCUC finally answered my complaint, after more than one year.  They said:

“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…”

Read their comment above very carefully.  Does this make any sense?

I will continue to share the evidence that I sent to the BCUC so you will know exactly what they received, and then I will share their full response. I, for one, do not consider my complaint as being closed….

In Segment #19 below, BCUC says that they have no evidence that the $$meters have design flaws yet did not say what evidence, if any, that they reviewed. I, with help from experts, did provide information on design flaws. If meters are being removed from fires and not inspected, but rather sent immediately to ITRON, how can they say that few smeters have failed? No one is tracking.

Sharon Noble

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Observations (continued)

The evidence reviewed indicates the safety hazard associated with watthour meters has not materially increased with the introduction of smart meters in BC as further detailed below:  (continued)

2)    Do smart meters have design flaws which result in meters being a fire hazard?

The evidence reviewed suggests that the Itron smart meters installed in BC do not have design flaws which cause meter fires or thermal incidents.

Comment: There is no evidence supplied in this report, or in other materials available at other times from others, to justify this statement. One obvious component not examined is the built-in disconnect switch. If the Manufacturer’s Test data shows normal operating temperatures for each model of meter and its disconnect switch when subjected to realistic test conditions, including weather and overload, overvoltage and transient voltage conditions among others, and the tests results have been reviewed and verified by a BC Professional Engineer and if BC Hydro can provide proof of that, then perhaps the BCUC can be confident that the operating characteristics will be within acceptable limits for application, and the BCUC assertion might carry some significance.

 Although there have been a relatively small number of structural fires whose origin was identified at or in the vicinity of a recently installed smart meter, the available investigations  by fire/electrical experts have not found the meter itself to be the cause.  The most likely cause for the majority of these investigations was found to be the meter socket or human installation error. A similar rate of meter socket and human installation error fires would be expected if the replacement meters were not smart meters.

If there was an issue with the design of the meters it would be expected to affect a significant number of the 2 million meters installed in BC. This has not been the case and the occurrence rate of meter and meter socket related fires in BC is consistent with other jurisdictions and with the BC Residential Structure Fires statistics prior to smart meter installation.

  • What were the available investigations? Given that the meters are removed, there are many that could not have been investigated
  • How is the incident rate determined when no one is tracking? 
  • What evidence was reviewed to arrive at the conclusion that there are no design flaws that have contributed to meter fires or failures?
  • Who were the experts who determined that the smart meters themselves did not cause fires? What were their qualifications?

Given that meters were destroyed or removed, and that there are a high proportion of “undetermined” ignition sources, it is impossible for any determination to be made regarding the safety of smart meters. No conclusion can be drawn from the information that was considered.

Comment: The above conclusions are not based on hard evidence, only conjecture, because of the fragmentation of reporting and incident data, and the inability or reluctance for forensic inspection of burned meters.