Segment #23 – 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.

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Segment #23

This is the final section of the draft report with comments that I submitted. BCUC confirms that the smart meters do not need to be certified safe, unlike all other electrical equipment used in or on our homes. The government has exempted all utility-owned equipment. They also say that BC Hydro and FortisBC determine what standards, if any, the meters must meet to be found safe. To summarize, there is no tracking, no oversight, no certification, no standards. And BCUC has concluded that there is no indication that these are not safe. Neither, they agree, that there is no indication that they 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:

7)    Are watthour meters required to be certified safe by a professional electrical engineer licensed in BC and if so, has it been done?

In BC, utility owned watthour meters are not required to be certified by a professional electrical engineer. Despite Section 21 of the BC Electrical Safety Regulation which requires electrical equipment used in BC to have a mark indicating third party safety certification or alternatively for utility equipment to be certified by an electrical engineer licenced in BC, Section 3 of the BC Electrical Safety Regulation exempts utilities and utility distribution equipment, i.e., meters from the regulation.

  • This regulation needs to be amended and updated. When written, analog meters were on homes and were deemed, through experience, to be safe. The fact that a utility owns equipment does not mean per se that the equipment is safe. Given that BC Hydro has expert electrical engineers in its employ, why has none been tasked with testing the meter and certifying its safety?
  • Given the many issues identified in this report and through comments, does BCUC agree with this exemption?

Comment: This conclusion by BCUC appears to be at the root of the issue around meter incidents. Reviewing the evidence about meter design, installation, non-certified disconnect switch, questionable test data, lack of follow-up after installation, fragmentation of incident data, the critical interface between the meter and the homeowners’ meter base, and other factors described in this report and elsewhere, there is a strong justification to demand that certification of the meters and validation of technical data be introduced as soon as possible, and an improvement in Utility practices, because it certainly appears that a lack of attention and due diligence by several responsible parties continues to occur.

8)    What certifications are required for smart meters in BC and are they adequate?

All watthour meters in Canada are required to be certified to LMB-EG-07 which covers meter accuracy. BC Hydro determines what physical and safety standards its meters meet and the certification method. FortisBC determines what physical and safety standards its meters meet and the certification method. Currently there are no requirements other than for accuracy that require third party certification of utility owned smart meters in BC.

  • Who in BC Hydro determines the physical and safety standards for these meters? What are his/their qualifications?
  • Does any third party review the standards to determine if they are adequate?  What are they? Who confirms the standards are monitored and are met?
  • Third party certification is required for accuracy because the public depends on meters measuring honestly and accurately. The public expects, and rightly so, that the meters put on homes will be safe. Why isn’t there a requirement that any electrical device, even if owned by a utility, be certified safe by an independent third party?
  • Allowing BC Hydro to both set the standards and to determine if it has met those standards is a blatant conflict of interest. And with BC Hydro’s obvious inability even to keep accurate records on incidents and to follow regulations, their ability to ensure that even their internal standards are met is dubious, at best.
  • Is BCUC satisfied with there being no oversight of the standards of smart meters?