Segment #4 – Investigation Scope (cont’d) – Smart Meter Background

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 #4

Please note the contradictions regarding the need to certify the smeters by an independent body. Also note that Saskatchewan has required that any $$meters that replace the recalled ones must meet higher standards than those used to certify the Sensus meters that burned, e.g. stricter with higher standards than UL 2735.

Sharon Noble

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Investigation Scope  (continued)

This investigation addresses the following questions concerning the certification of smart meters in BC.

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

There is a disagreement between BC Hydro/BCUC and the BCSA.  The BCSA has stated in writing that BC Hydro should be certifying using a BC Professional Engineer. However, since BC Hydro employs BC Professional Electrical Engineers, the question should be: “What responsibility do the BC Hydro Engineers have in certifying the smart meter system and approving the BC Hydro procedures, and assuring the diligent and consistent application of Engineering Practices? How much of the Engineering of the meter system was delegated to the meter supplier Itron and not supervised by BC Hydro Engineers? Correspondence with BC Hydro suggests that much of the work was delegated to Itron and apparently was not validated by BC Hydro Engineers.

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

A critical item missing in this Report is any investigation and discussion about the meter’s built-in 200 Ampere disconnect switch. The switch is not CSA certified, yet it is being used as a “Service Disconnect Switch” – (CSA Code definition), for which it is not designed. Several requests for technical performance and certification data have been ignored by BC Hydro and by Itron.  The switch is a potential failure mechanism, in particular during fault conditions, because as described elsewhere, the electrical protection on the HV side of the transformer does not appear to adequately protect the electronic meter from excessive fault current.  This BCUC Report states that BC Hydro meters do not need to be certified under the Electrical Safety Regulations, however it also states that BC Hydro is NOT exempt from the Electrical Safety Act. An immediate investigation into the design, certification, testing, operation and capabilities of this disconnect switch is required.

Note: Over the several years during meter implementation plans the BCUC did not review any of the Utilities’ smart meter documentation and practices, including compliance with certifications and questionable practices that violate CSA Certifications, so this report involves the BCUC in failures being studied by its own review.

Smart Meter Background

In 2010, BC Hydro started their smart meter program to replace the existing watthour meter stock. BC Hydro was required to undertake this program pursuant to the 2010 Clean Energy Act and supporting regulations. This program was substantially completed in 2015 with 1.93 million meters replaced.

FortisBC followed with a similar Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program which was ongoing as of November 2015 having replaced 124 thousand meters. FortisBC’s AMI program was approved by the BCUC in July, 2013 by order C-7-13. Similar initiatives have been undertaken by utilities around the world with over 50 million smart meters having been installed in the United States.4

Both BC Hydro and FortisBC have chosen to install the Itron OpenWay CENTRON II watthour meters. As of 2012, Itron’s share of the US smart meter market was approximately 45%.5

There have been smart meter programs that have been halted unacceptable incidents and in other jurisdictions due to fire concerns.  After the occurrence of several meter related fires, SaskPower halted its smart meter initiative in 2014 and removed over 100,000 smart meters. The Sensus Generation 3.3 meters installed by SaskPower were found to have design issues that could result in dust and water penetration into the meter leading to electrical shorting within the meter.6

Note that SaskPower has initiated a program that recognizes faulty meters that were certified under UL 2735 have failed and are being replaced. SaskPower is working with its meter supplier and the Standards Organization Underwriters Laboratories, to develop a Standard that will improve the UL 2735 requirements.

Quote ”Any new smart meter designed for SaskPower’s use must meet more stringent requirements than currently exist. These requirements, as well as current industry standards, will be subject to independent verification prior to acceptance or installation by SaskPower.
SaskPower continues to remove all remaining smart meters in the province with a deadline for completion of March 15, 2015.
SaskPower says it has reached an agreement with U.S.-based manufacturer Sensus to recover the $47 million cost of removing smart meters that were installed across the province.
The Crown utility says it will receive a $24 million cash refund from Sensus for all the smart meters purchased by SaskPower, including the ones that had already been installed.
In an agreement previously announced SaskPower and Sensus specifically agreed to an investment of $5 million toward a next generation meter that meets SaskPower’s specific needs.
Any new smart meter designed for SaskPower’s use must meet more stringent requirements than currently exist. These requirements, as well as current industry standards, will be subject to independent verification prior to acceptance or installation by SaskPower.” Unquote
SaskPower continues to remove all remaining smart meters in the province with a deadline for completion of March 15, 2015.” Unquote.

4 Electric Power Annual 2013, U.S. energy Information Administration, Table 10.10.

5 Global Market for Smart Electricity Meters: Government Policies Driving Strong Growth, U.S. International Trade Commission, 2014.

6 Smart Meter Review, Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan, 2014.