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Smart meters still on in South Okanagan

Smart meter with digital display - FortisBC
Smart meter with digital display
— image credit: FortisBC

Two local electrical utilities have no plans to follow the lead of a counterpart in Saskatchewan that is being forced by the provincial government there to remove 105,000 smart meters from customers’ homes.

SaskPower was ordered last week to pull the meters, after eight of the Crown corporation’s devices caught fire in the previous two months, according to media reports. It’s expected to take up to nine months and $50 million to swap out the Sensus smart meters for different models.

Results from an investigation into the fires are expected later this month, but the North Carolina-based company issued a statement last week that suggested the incidents may be a result of “external factors,” like water intrusion into meter boxes.

So-called smart meters, which relay usage data wirelessly to utility operators and thereby eliminate the need for manual readings, are already in use by the City of Penticton, while FortisBC will be installing them elsewhere in the region beginning early next year.

Shawn Filice, who manages the city’s electrical utility, said despite what’s happening in Saskatchewan, there are no plans to do a change-back here.

“There are no concerns we have regarding our meters in Penticton,” he said.

“They’ve been installed now for over 10 years, and we’ve not had any issues. And at this point in time, I have no concerns with respect to the equipment we’re using.”

The meters in use at approximately 17,000 homes and business in Penticton are manufactured by Itron, one of just a handful of companies that make the devices, Filice added. FortisBC will also be using Itron meters, according to spokesman Neal Pobran, who confirmed his company is staying the course with its roll-out.

“We are continuing with our plans to install advanced meters starting in Trail, with exchanges scheduled for the South Okanagan from May 2015 to July 2015. As with any project we do, safety is always a primary consideration,” he said via email.

Pobran noted the installations for about 130,000 customers in the Southern Interior will be done by Corix Utilities, which did similar work for BC Hydro, and will include a safety inspection of each meter base.

“It’s important to note that we already exchange thousands of meters each year to ensure accuracy and have never experienced a fire from these exchanges,” he said.

 

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