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Thousands of smart meters ordered removed in Ontario

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

(File photo)

(File photo)

TORONTO - 

Have you been notified that your smart meter will be removed? We want to hear from you. Call 416-947-2211 or e-mail antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

Several thousands smart meters have been ordered removed from Ontario properties over concerns they could start fires.

David Collie, president and CEO of the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), said their experts found similarities between the structure of 5,400 Sensus Generation 3.2 remote disconnect meters installed in Ontario and a similar model used in Saskatchewan that was implicated in a number of fires.

Collie said there have been no serious incidents reported in Ontario, and the risk of fire is considered very low, but one meter was found to have failed.

“We watched these incidents very carefully that were taking place in Saskatchewan,” Collie said Thursday. “When the engineer report came out, we went and did our own homework and due diligence here in Ontario and determined that this could happen here.” The ESA listed 11 local distribution companies (LDCs) that have installed the devices — Bluewater Power Distribution, Waterloo North Hydro, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, EnWin Utilities, Greater Sudbury Hydro, Brant County Power, Lakefront Utilities, Canadian Niagara Power, Norfolk Power Distribution, Oakville Hydro, and Algoma Power.

If moisture or another contaminant comes into contact with the meters, there could be arcing within the components, potentially starting a fire.

One LDC turned in a meter with evidence of arcing but the ESA refused to identify its location.

Property owners will be notified by their LDC if they have a suspect meter.

Authorized personnel will be sent out by the LDC to remove the meter, a task homeowners should not attempt themselves, the ESA says.

LDCs have until March 31 to remove the meters but some have already taken them out, Collie said.

There are 4.8 million smart meters installed in Ontario under orders of the Liberal provincial government to allow for time-of-use electricity pricing, but the safety issue only concerns one particular type of unit used sparingly in the province.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s office issued a statement in response to the ESA’s safety bulletin, telling LDCs that it expects them to quickly comply with the order.

“The safety of all Ontarians is the number one priority of our government,” Chiarelli said. “While there have not been any reported incidents with this particular model of smart meter in Ontario, we thank the Electrical Safety Authority for their comprehensive review and proactive recommendations to ensure the safety of Ontarians.” NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said the Ontario government has a lot of explaining to do to the many citizens already upset at the cost of the smart meter program who now find some of the devices pose a threat to their safety.

The NDP raised this issue with the government last summer after Saskatchewan ordered 105,000 Sensus meters removed following a number of suspicious fires, Tabuns said.

At the time, Sensus had issued a statement saying that its site inspections pointed to “external factors,” such as water intrusion due to holes in meter boxes, as a cause for the problems rather than a flaw in the product.

The Ontario energy ministry reported back that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) had found none of the units used in Saskatchewan in place in this province, Tabuns said.

“Don’t worry, be happy, go home,” Tabuns said. “Happily the ESA actually looked at the problem, realized it wasn’t just one make of meter, that there was a larger problem, and they’re taking action.

“The government should have recognized last August that it couldn’t just dismiss the problem.”

Ontario NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky demanded action on the smart meters last August, saying the government should treat them like they “could be ticking time bombs attached to people’s homes.”

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

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