REGINA – From installation to a massive recall following several fires, the narrative of SaskPower smart meters heated up in the second half of 2014.
The months of politicians trading shots over this issue may have left you wondering, “What happened, and when?” Global News put together this timeline to help you make sense of it all.
2009 – 2011
- Planning begins to renew SaskPower’s metering technology
- Eventually the Crown utility settled on Sensus Corp. to manufacture the meters and Grid One Solutions for deployment
July – August, 2012
- Field testing of 400 Sensus smart meters (version 3.2) in Hanley, Sask.
- Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) announces on August 16 its smart meter (also version 3.2) program is postponed due to 14 meters overheating
- NDP critics alleged in October 2014 the government was ‘using Hanley as guinea pigs‘ because the same model with problems in the U.S. was being tested in Hanley
- Following tests of a newer Sensus smart meter (version 3.3), SaskPower announces full rollout of program
- 105,000 meters installed on Saskatchewan homes by July 2014
June – July, 2014
- Seven confirmed meter fires in various parts of the province
- Cause of the fires is still unknown.
- Installations halted on July 10
- Critics attack SaskPower, government over installer regulations
July 30, 2014
- Minister responsible for SaskPower, Bill Boyd, orders all smart meters in the province to be removed
- Documents later showed SaskPower executives had come to this recommendation the day before
- Premier Brad Wall says Crown Investments Corp. (CIC) will conduct review; ratepayers won’t cover $47 million replacement cost
- Sensus blames ‘external factors‘ for fires, including hot socket issues
- SaskPower CEO Robert Watson issues an apology
- Global News details connection between SaskEnergy gas modules and SaskPower smart meters
- Another smart meter fire in Regina on August 9
- NDP again question exemptions for under-qualified installers
WATCH BELOW: SaskEnergy’s new gas modules draw several comparisons to the disastrous smart meters that are slated to be removed
- Opposition demands provincial auditor investigation
- SaskPower reaches agreement with Sensus for partial refund of $47 million, still committing $18 million to manufacturer for future meter purchase
- Review of smart meter program released October 27 reveals SaskPower ignored ‘red flags’, hadn’t made consumer safety a priority
- Investigation determines smart meter fires caused by moisture trapped in the units, not installation or socket issues
- CIC imposes March 15, 2015 deadline to replace smart meters with the older-style digital meters
- Watson resigns position as SaskPower CEO
- Wall defends Boyd, saying blaming the SaskPower minister would send ‘wrong message’
WATCH BELOW: Review also determined SaskPower failed to listen to advice recommending against a mass-purchase of smart meters
November 7, 2014
- 9th smart meter catches fire, the first since August
- SaskPower updates replacement timeline, saying smart meters will be removed by mid-February 2015
- Acting CEO Mike Marsh says slow production of new units, not manpower, delaying replacement
PHOTO GALLERY: An east Regina resident woke up to the sound of banging and flames coming from her smart meter
The political mud-slinging over this issue has only heated up since the legislature resumed sitting in late-October, with the NDP questioning whether Boyd had been briefed on smart meter failures in the U.S. With another fire, it’s expected the topic may again come up in Question Period.
With moisture to blame in the eight fires that were reviewed, it is possible there will be fewer incidents as the province heads into winter. Electrical engineering consultants said significant rainfall led up to each of the meter failures, and it’s unlikely snowfall will cause the same problems.
Sensus is in the midst of designing and testing a new smart meter for Saskatchewan homes. SaskPower is committing $5 million to research and development, and an additional $18 million will be refunded to the province if the manufacturer can’t produce a new product. The process is likely to take three years, so the full scope of this debacle may not be known until then.