October 27, 2014
Review Finds Customer Safety Was Not Given Enough Priority
An investigation into the causes of fires and the procurement practices surrounding SaskPower’s smart meter program has concluded that customer safety was not given a high enough priority by SaskPower. This and other findings have led to a series of recommendations aimed at preventing such problems in the future.
“Customer safety does not appear to have been a consideration until after reports of smart meter fires involving Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) arose,” independent experts at the law firm Robertston Stromberg found. “It did not become a matter of central importance until June of 2014.”
During June and July of 2014, there were eight different cases where smart meters caught fire, prompting the suspension of the installation program and a later cabinet order to remove the meters.
Crown Investments Corporation (CIC) was directed to conduct a review and commissioned a number of independent experts to examine different aspects of the issue.
PwC was asked to review procurement and contract management. Consulting engineers Ritenburg and Associates of Regina was asked to examine the technical and safety issues and the law firm Robertson Stromberg was commissioned to look at legal and product liability issues.
An initial study of the causes of the fires shows that rainwater and contaminants getting into the meters appear to be a major contributing factor in the failures, not issues related to their installation.
That portion of the CIC review, conducted by Regina’s Ritenburg and Associates, shows that some of the Sensus meters used in Saskatchewan have a tendency to leak. The eight meters in question were completely destroyed and impossible to analyze. However, others that quit because of other problems and were removed have shown signs of moisture and conductive contaminants getting in.
This will have to be confirmed by other testing now underway by consultants for SaskPower, but Ritenburg found no evidence that the failures were related to “hot sockets” or installation problems.
The review also identified a number of problems in the procurement and project management processes.