Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ontario Hydro One pulling plug on 36,000 rural smart meters

Hydro One has taken a new approach to pesky smart meters that refuse to send a reliable signal about electricity consumption in rural Ontario. Give up on them.

The utility, which was ordered by its provincial masters to install the devices, admits it has decided to manually read roughly 36,000 meters instead of counting on the wireless technology.
“Astonishing,” was the reaction from Lanark-area MPP Randy Hillier, who has been deluged with complaints about Hydro One billing and smart-meter suspicions. “I’ve been banging my head against the wall for the last five years, saying we’ve got problems with smart meters in rural Ontario.” Since first being elected in 2007, no single issue has attracted as much attention in his riding, he said.

One of the main complaints, Hillier explained, is that the terrain in rural Ontario is such that the wireless meters — which send out a continuous signal to permit time-of-use billing — frequently fail. Turns out it’s absolutely true.
“The evidence has been in front of us for a long time. It doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked and now (there’s) an admission that it will never work.”

When Hydro moved to a new billing system, it was buried with complaints, numbering in the tens of thousands. Some customers were double and tripled bills; some had no bills for months; others were comically billed millions in overcharges. When Ontario’s ombudsman stepped in, the office of AndrĂ© Marin was flooded with more than 10,000 complaints. Hydro admitted its errors, even sending about a million letters of apology to its customers.
Hillier only shakes his head at the countless hours customers have spent with Hydro’s call centre, the frustration of trying to be heard and the repeated errors that, in some cases, have threatened financial ruin on small businesses. And, now, to pull the plug on the meters altogether?

“Anytime a government agency doesn’t cause stress or anxiety is an improvement.”
B.C. Hydro says "smart meters" 1000% peachy
B.C. Hydro insists its spiffy new smart meters have not caused any fires, even though the technology has been blamed for blazes in other jurisdictions. That includes Saskatchewan, where the government just decided to get rid of smart meters after a series of electrical fires there.
Luc De Beir begs to differ. He blames a smart meter for a February 2013 fire at his summer home near Prince George.

An electrical utility pole had caught fire near its base. It smouldered, burned through the pole and fell over. De Beir said B.C. Hydro had earlier installed a new smart meter on the utility pole. The fire appeared to have started in the precise spot where the smart meter had been installed. He filed a $4,500 damage claim to B.C. Hydro, but Hydro rejected it. Why? Hydro sent De Beir a letter that suggested a pre-existing “meter base” on the pole was the problem, not the smart meter that was plugged into it.
“We sent a crew to investigate and I can confirm a smart meter was never installed on that pole,” Hydro spokesman Greg Alexis told me. He said Hydro installed a smart meter at a completely different location. “We installed a smart meter on the side of a shed, not a pole,” Alexis said, suggesting it must have been the old analog meter that burned that fateful day.

De Beir was stunned by that. “That’s not true,” he said. “They put a smart meter on that pole and I can show you a picture to prove it.” “There was a smart meter installed on the pole,” said Alexis, who blamed an address mix-up for the error. “But there is still no evidence that it caused the fire.” One final twist: No one knows what happened to the burned smart meter. De Beir says a Hydro work crew took it away. But Alexis said there is no record that happened or that Hydro has the burned meter in its possession."
The corporation relies on its subsidiary Corix Utilities to train installers. Most installers are semi-skilled workers, who receive two weeks of training in the classroom and the field. The union’s Flynn maintains the Crown corporation is risking not only homes, but installers’ safety, by not hiring certified electricians to do the job. A certified electrician, he said, would check everything from corrosion on the base to voltages at different test points.
Smart meter installations are the suspected cause of an “unusual” number of fires similar to the electrical fire that destroyed the Mission home of Trish Regan, according to a recent investigation by the Ontario fire marshal’s office.

After at least two fires broke out in B.C. homes following the installation of smart meters, homeowners have been told it’s their responsibility to ensure the electrical wiring and base to support the meter is not faulty. However, people can’t just call in an electrician to check the safety of the meter. Gary Murphy, chief product officer for BC Hydro’s smart meter program, said only BC Hydro staff are allowed to unlock a smart meter.
Hydro’s Greg Alexis says as far as fire risk homeowners are safer with the new smart meters. “There is no evidence that a smart meter has ever been the cause of a fire in British Columbia."