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.
Customer Relations Analyst
Log No. 51374
February 12, 2016
Ms. Diane Roy
Director, Regulatory Affairs FortisBC Inc.
16705 Fraser Highway Surrey, BC V4N OE8
Mr. Tom Loski
Chief Regulatory Officer Regulatory & Rates Group
British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority
16th Floor – 333 Dunsmuir StreetVancouver, BC V6B SR3
Ms. Sharon Noble
(address), Victoria, BC
Dear Ms. Roy, Mr. Loski and Ms. Noble:
Re: Smart Meter Safety Staff Report
The BC Utilities Commission received a complaint regarding the safety of the recent smart meter /advanced meter infrastructure programs within British Columbia. As a result of the complaint, Commission staff requested information from FortisBC and BC Hydro and reviewed and investigated the available evidence. We have now concluded that review and have compiled the evidence and conducted preliminary analysis in a draft staff report. Commission staff request that you provide any comments you may have on this draft staff report to ensure that relevant information is not missing and that the factual information presented in the draft report is accurate.
Please provide your submissions on or before Friday, March 4, 2016.
Once submissions are received, staff will review the comments and decide whether further process is required.
= = =
On July 13, 2015, the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) received a complaint from a concerned citizen with regards to safety concerns with smart meters supplemented by evidence of fires and thermal incidents originating in the vicinity of recently installed smart meters. A staff investigation into the complaint was initiated as the BCUC is mandated to provide general supervision of provincial public utilities including the oversight of equipment and public safety1 pursuant to the Utilities Commission Act. The smart meter safety concerns addressed in the investigation are summarized in three categories; the potential fire hazard of smart meters, the adequacy of investigation and tracking of smart meter related incidents and the certification of smart meters in British Columbia (BC)
(please provide a list of the qualifications and experience levels of the BCUC staff, and if B.C. Professional Engineers were part of the investigation, since the topics and the investigation would fall within the definition of Engineering.)
Note that this BCUC investigation appears to be the FIRST review of smart meter system safety. A preamble paragraph is required: “The original mandate to the BCUC from the Utilities Commission Act was responsibility for the safety oversight of the Utilities. When the CEA was passed and the Orders-in-Council issued, the BCUC stepped back from its monitoring task of the Utilities. The Smart Meter implementation program therefore lacked an active oversight by the BCUC throughout its schedule, from planning through installation and operation. The minimal role was demonstrated by BCUC responses to complaints as being a semi-passive role which appeared to take BC Hydro data at face value. This role did not include the verification by the BCUC of the veracity of data supplied by the Utilities, since there does not appear to be a mechanism, nor the skills, and this resulted in an acceptance of that data from the Utilities at face value. This is an important issue, since the public perception is that the BCUC is “monitoring” the Utilities at a detailed level.
Is the BCUC not in a Conflict of Interest when it examines possible failings in the process for which is has responsibility?
This Review needs to be conducted by an independent organization.
BCUC staff conducted the investigation based on the information provided by the complainant and sought further information from BC Hydro, FortisBC, the BC Safety Authority, the Office of the Fire Commissioner and other sources including the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and publicly available literature and reports. Staff also reviewed the statutory framework governing the entities involved with the installation, incident investigation and safety oversight of smart meters. This draft report constitutes the preliminary findings of BCUC staff.
Electrical engineers and experts in fire forensics need to be involved.
BCUC staff will seek comments from the parties involved in this investigation to ensure that relevant information is not missing and that the information presented in this report is accurate.
Comment: Emails and telephone calls have been exchanged with the CSA in Ontario from December 2013 onwards regarding the meter base, and the disconnect switch. Note that the BCUC “…sought further information from….the CSA.” Did the CSA share any of previous concerns with the BCUC?