Segment #6 – Meter Safety Jurisdiction (cont’d) – BC Safety Authority

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 #6

Below is the admission by BC Safety Authority (BCSA) that the meters are exempt from Electrical Safety regulations. Also, BCSA is not mandated to investigate meter failures. In fact, I was told by BCSA that they were instructed (by whom?) to not investigate smart meter failures. Our lives depend on someone ensuring these things are safe, but no one is.

Sharon Noble

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BC Safety Authority

BC Safety Authority is an independent, self-funded organization mandated by the Safety Authority Act to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. The BC Safety Authority in accordance with the Safety Standards Act and the Electrical Safety Regulation issues required permits to qualified personnel to work on regulated electrical equipment including residential wiring and meter sockets. Electrical equipment owned or in the possession or control of a public utility used directly in the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy including residential meters are exempt from the Electrical Safety Regulation including the permit requirement.

I suspect that the exemption for utility owned equipment from the Electrical Safety Regulation made sense when that equipment was distant from homes, or was not flammable. Analogs were difficult to burn, if not impossible. They were tested in conjunction with the meter base which was certified by CSA, and they had a long history of being safe.  Given the new technology, this exemption needs to be revisited. Smart meters are digital, flammable, and, in the opinion of experts, not satisfactorily tested for fire safety.  untested, being put on to our homes without any oversight.

  • I ask that the Electrical Safety Regulation be reviewed and updated to take into consideration this new technology.

The BC Safety Authority is also mandated to investigate safety-related incidents7 involving installation and operation of regulated electrical equipment including residential wiring and meter sockets. The BC Safety Authority is not mandated to investigate utility owned meter incidents, though as a practical matter their mandate to investigate meter socket incidents encompasses the meter as the two components are physically attached to each other and an incident damaging one will in all likelihood damage to the other.

  • This is totally inconsistent.   They cannot investigate smart meters yet they are supposed to investigate meter socket incidents that may have been caused by improper fitting meters. In other jurisdictions (e.g. Texas), many fires have been caused by ITRON Openway meters not fitting the base that previously held the analog. The experts said that the blades of the meter were thinner than those of the analogs leaving a gap which caused arcing and fires. Who is investigating this as a possible cause of fires in BC? I fear no one is.
  • BC Hydro often is the first on the scene when a meter fails, overheats, melts or burns. In many instances BC Hydro does not report the incident to BCSA.  An example: Vancouver home Oct. 12, 2014, meter burned but the homeowner extinguished it.  BC Hydro removed the meter and told the homeowner it would be inspected at their lab.  No report was submitted to the Fire Commissioner because the fire department was not called. BCSA was not notified and has no report. Power Tech, BC Hydro’s lab, said they had never received a smart meter to inspect.
  • Because BC Hydro is exempt from the BC Safety Standards Act, BCSA has limited authority over equipment owned by BC Hydro. If BCSA determines that the smart meters are a fire hazard they have no authority to act. Furthermore, according to BCSA  it has limited authority over BC Hydro as well. Should there be a failure to report an incident as required by the Regulation,  they have no authority to act. What agency is to determine that smart meters are safe or not?  BCSA is a key agency with expertise to investigate electrical fires. If they are not advised and allowed to inspect the smart meter, or if they are allowed to inspect but not allowed to speak out when they see a problem with BC Hydro’s smart meters, how can  BCUC say that there have been no smart meter fires?
  • Is it accurate to say that because the smart meter is an unregulated product that should a smart meter cause a death that it would not be considered an “incident”, and therefore BCSA would not be able to investigate?

This statement is confusing, since the BCSA has not, to our knowledge, specifically investigated any smart meter incidents to the point where they could identify the cause of failure.