July 29, 2014 7:33 am

NDP raises questions as 8th SaskPower smart meter fails

Watch above: a family is thankful nothing serious happened when a SaskPower smart meter blew this weekend

SASKATOON – SaskPower is dealing with its eighth smart meter failure in Saskatchewan as it continues to suspend the installation of the new devices.

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The Crown corporation originally halted its installations earlier in the month after six fires associated with the new meters were reported. Since then, two more incidents have occurred in Saskatoon, the latest at a home on Begg Crescent in the College Park neighbourhood on Monday.

“All of the sudden the radio shut off and my wife went to open the fridge and there was no power in the fridge,” said Bob Johns, one of the homeowners of the residence.

“The failure rates are still certainly within what the industry calls normal, but we’re concerned about any meter failure that’s on a customer premise,” said Mike Marsh, the vice president of SaskPower.

In Saskatoon, SaskPower generally serves customers who live near the boundaries of the city.

Marsh added that SaskPower’s technical experts were “looking at all aspect of the failure” in their investigation and it hopes to report their findings by late August.

The string of incidents has put the Crown corporation in the cross-hairs of the opposition. The NDP criticized Premier Brad Wall’s government Monday in a release, saying it was “renewing its call for the government to actively address serious concerns with its smart meter program.”

“Families have questions and they deserve answers from the government,” said Cathy Sproule, the MLA for the Saskatoon Nutana district, in the release. Sproule serves as the NDP critic for SaskPower.

The NDP also called for the government to investigate the meter units, as well as the adequacy of the training for installers, some of which are not electricians.

“We don’t believe there’s a correlation between the meters that were installed by the competent workers or those installed by qualified electricians that work for SaskPower,” said Marsh.

“At present time the statistics don’t bear that out.”

Not all smart meter installation efforts have stalled in the province; Saskatoon Light and Power has been placing smart meters in homes and businesses since 2008 and have not had any issues with unit fires or overheating.

“Some of our customers have had the meters for six years already and we haven’t had any issues like that,” said Kevin Hudson, the metering & sustainable electricity manager for the City of Saskatoon.

Hudson added he has been in contact with SaskPower as their investigation continues.

“Any utility that finds an issue with an installation product, we would look at those recommendations and implement them here as well,” said Hudson.

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