New Sask. gas modules to use same network as smart meters

Watch above: SaskEnergy’s new gas modules draw several comparisons to the disastrous “Smart Meters” that are slated to be removed

REGINA – They’re the lesser-known aspect of Saskatchewan’s push to automated gas and electrical readings, but SaskEnergy’s new gas modules draw several comparisons to the to the disastrous smart meters that are slated to be removed.

The 85,000 modules already installed use some of the same technology as the smart meters connected to nine fires in the province.

“There are base stations attached to the nearest cell tower, and the meters (SaskEnergy’s and SaskPower’s) both communicate with a common communication network, which are those base stations on the cell towers,” said Dave Burdeniuk, a SaskEnergy spokesperson.

Burdeniuk says that’s where the similarities end. While a smart meter is one entire unit, the gas modules are just an addition to traditional gas meters.

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Everything is still mechanical, but with a battery and wireless transmitter that sends usage data to those cell tower locations. The meters can still be read manually.

SaskEnergy’s contribution to the base stations is $2.4 million, which is part of the $17 million being spent on the new gas monitoring system.

But the Crown electrical utility is taking the lead, with the gas company acting more like a customer.

SaskPower is replacing 105,000 smart meters and couldn’t tell Global News on Friday how much the base stations cost, whether they’re part of the $47 million failed program or if they’re even still moving forward.

Burdeniuk says SaskEnergy isn’t worried.

“About 75 per cent of the (communications) network that would serve both utilities is in place,” Burdeniuk said. “If that were to stop today, that would be enough of a network we could do automated meter reading for about 90 per cent of our customers.”

“The 10 per cent we couldn’t reach, we would just manually read as we’ve done for decades.”

The gas modules do come from the same manufacturer, Sensus Corp., that supplied the smart meters. SaskEnergy says Sensus has been producing the modules for several years and there haven’t been any major issues.

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What ties these units back together is the method of transmission. The gas module could communicate through a nearby smart meter, but SaskEnergy says its system is designed to work independently.

In centres such as Swift Current and Saskatoon, where SaskPower smart meter usage is limited, communicating with the cell tower base stations is the only way the gas modules can operate.

SaskEnergy says complaints about the gas modules have increased since the smart meter replacement was announced.

Customers can refuse installation or have a module removed at their request. Fewer than one per cent have done so, Burdeniuk says.

The modules are to begin transmitting data by the beginning of 2015.

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