Segment #21 – 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 #21

BCUC acknowledges that some components of the smeters are “more combustible” than those of analogs. They mislead because analogs contain no combustible components, being made entirely of glass and metal. They also admit that the evidence they have reviewed does not rule out the possibility that smart meter materials could contribute to fires. Yet we’re supposed to believe these things are safe.

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:

4)    Are the smart meter components and materials more flammable than previous meters and if so does this materially impact their safety?

Some components of the Itron smart meters installed in BC are more flammable than the previous meters. For example the cover of the Itron meters are made of polycarbonate verses analog legacy meter covers which are made of glass. Furthermore, smart meters contain batteries while legacy meters had none. However, the evidence reviewed does not suggest that the flammability rating of smart meter components and materials has resulted in a material increase in the meter related fire incident rate. In the US, the annual number of fires where the ignition source was attributed to the electric meter or meter box dropped from 940 in a pre- smart meter period to 610 during the period when smart meters were being installed.

  • None of this is credible because meters are being removed from fires scenes in US and BC.
  • It has been acknowledged and demonstrated that there is no accurate tracking system in BC, and there is no evidence that the reporting done by the states or utilities in the US is any better.
  • What evidence was reviewed that led to the conclusion that the flammability of the material used in the smart meter has not increased the meter-related fires?
  • Who reviewed the evidence and what were his qualifications?

There is no basis for the assertion that smart meter components and materials have not resulted in an increase in meter related fires.

The evidence reviewed is not sufficient to rule out the fire rating of smart meter materials to be a contributing factor in all fires originating in the vicinity of meters. However, plastic components are commonly used in other electrical equipment and FortisBC submitted that the plastic components of their AMI meters have a rating of V-0 as specified under UL94, the Standard for Safety of Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances testing.

Comment: This Report statement is a gross simplification, not recognizing the science and the rigorous testing that goes into the insulating material careful choices for electrical equipment.   

Comment: From the UL94C Standard, the ignition source for the material under test consists of a 50W tirrel burner flame ignition source. This does not accurately represent actual unlimited electrical arc energy available from the Grid when the HV Utility fuse does not interrupt a Low-Voltage fault in an adequately short time

The flammability and other smart meter safety concerns prompted Underwriters Laboratories to develop and in 2014 publish UL 2735, the Standard for Safety for Electric Utility Meters. Section 10 of the standard addresses batteries and section 16 addresses flammability. A Canadian version of the UL standard is being developed. There is also a parallel ANSI meter safety standard under development.

  • UL certified 2 meters, Landis & Gyr (Texas) and Sensus (Saskatchewan) as meeting UL 2735 standards after these very same meters caused fires and failed. Obviously this standard is inadequate. Something that is considered safe will not cause fires.
  • According to industry documents the new standards are being developed as a result of concerns about design flaws that make smart meters fire hazards.

“… design flaws in smart meter units have been known to cause serious fire hazards and spotty performance. This has caused a lot of concern for utilities and manufacturers of smart meters.