August 15, 2014 3:46 pm

NDP alleges province knew of smart meter dangers

The NDP is claiming that the province went ahead with smart meter installations even though senior officials were aware of potential dangers.

Brent McGillvray / Global News

REGINA – The NDP is claiming that the province went ahead with smart meter installations even though senior officials were aware of potential dangers.

The NDP allege that SaskPower allowed installations to take place despite the fact that eight smart meter incidents were reported during a trial period that ended on August 27, 2013.

“The government has knowingly been putting people, homes and millions of ratepayer dollars at risk, ignoring direct warnings,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader.

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The documents, obtained by the NDP through a Freedom of Information Act request, also suggest that exemptions from a law requiring that only qualified electrical workers remove and install power meters were given to SaskPower and American company GridOne Solutions. These exemptions allowed them to hire less qualified workers through a temporary employment agency instead of using electricians to install the smart meters.

The documents further suggest that SaskPower hired 150 less qualified workers to install the smart meters despite the fact that 50 qualified electricians had also applied to do the work.

Among the documents is an October letter from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to the province, warning that using less qualified workers is dangerous, and drawing attention to eight incidents that occurred during the trial period.

“This government could have done this the safe way and the right way by using electricians and taking the time to do it right,” said Wotherspoon. “The government sold out Saskatchewan by putting the bottom line of the private American company it contracted the smart meter job to ahead of Saskatchewan families.”

According to the NDP the province is forcing ratepayers to pick up the tab through SaskPower for at least an additional $47 million.

Meanwhile, the province has released details of a forthcoming review of the issue by the Crown Investment Corporation (CIC).

CIC will be conducting a thorough review of the SaskPower meter program by engaging independent experts to examine procurement and contract management (to be reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers) of the smart meter program, safety issues and cost recovery options.

“There will be a public report issued at the conclusion of the review, with findings and recommendations,” CIC President Dick Carter said. “Were sound processes followed by SaskPower in selecting the meter supplier and installer? What was the cause of the fires? And what recourse is available to recover costs? These are some of the questions that need to be answered by this review.”

SaskPower continues to work on removing the previously installed smart meters, replacing them with new, old-style meters. That work has been contracted to GridOne Solutions.

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