Smart meters linked to fires in Saskatchewan in use in Waterloo Region

The same type of smart meter linked to nine recent fires in Saskatchewan is in use in Waterloo Region, but hydro company officials here say they are not concerned about safety risks.

Local hydro company officials say they have no concerns over smart meters

SaskPower had been planning on replacing about 500,000 meters with new smart meters. That program has been halted and the utility has been told to remove about 105,000 devices already installed. (CBC)

The same type of smart meter linked to recent fires in Saskatchewan is in use in Waterloo Region, but hydro company officials here say they are not concerned about safety risks.

The Sensus Icon A Generation 3 2S smart meter has been linked to nine fires in Saskatchewan. As a result, the head of SaskPower has apologized to consumers and will replace 105,000 smart meters, a process that is expected to take six to nine months. 

However, officials from Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, Waterloo North Hydro and Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro say they're not concerned about similar fires happening here. 

Jerry Van Ooteghem, the president and CEO of Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, says the utility has about 90,000 Sensus smart meters in use. Of those, around 4,400 are the type that are linked to fires in Saskatchewan.

"We have not had any problems with any of the smart meters we've installed at this point in time. Obviously we will monitor the situation closely in Saskatchewan, in terms of any findings that might come out of the investigation there, but currently we've have no problems and we don't feel there's any risk with these meters," said Van Ooteghem.

Ian Miles, the president of Cambridge North Dumfries Hydro, says there are about 49,000 Sensus meters in total, but he was not sure how many were the Generation 3 type. 

"We do use Sensus meters, not necessarily the same model number that are causing those fires in Saskatchewan," said Miles.

"We actually started installing them back in 2005 and completed the installation of all our customers by 2010, so they've been in service for quite some time and we've never experienced any issues with overheating or fires."

"We're not overly concerned, but we are of course going to monitor that investigation," said Miles, in reference to the Saskatchewan case.

Waterloo North Hydro has over 50,000 smart meters in use. Of those, about 4,300 Sensus Generation 3 meters, though none of the exact type linked to the recent fires. 

"We have no concerns about our meter population," said Herb Haller, the vice president of engineering for Waterloo North Hydro. The company has used smart meters for several years and reports no safety concerns. 

His confidence was echoed by Albert Singh, the company's chief financial officer.

"We don't believe there's a safety issue here at all," he said.  

According to the Ontario Fire Marshal, smart meters have been linked to 23 cases between 2011- 2013. Of those cases, ten were meter failures caused by internal faults, and 13 were small fires linked to high-resistance heating, according to an OFM spokesperson. 

Company says 'industry issues' to blame for fires

In a recent statement posted on the Sensus website, the company attributes the recent fires to what it calls "long-standing industry issues."

The company says it has been "conducting utility site inspections and performing extensive lab testing" to find the cause of the small fires in Saskatchewan. 

Sensus says two fires were caused by water getting into the meter box, three were caused by over voltage from the utility, and one was the result of an issue with a meter base. 

Here in the region, the utility companies emphasized how important it is to install smart meters correctly.

"They plug into a socket, in what's called a meter base. In some cases where those meter bases are really old and rusted, they need to be replaced before a new meter is installed, otherwise the rust sort of inhibits the contact and that can lead to overheating, and fires in some cases," said Miles. 

"We were very cautious when we replaced the meters," says Van Ooteghem. "Wherever we noticed a problem with a meter base, we made repairs at the time, prior to installing the smart meters."  

With files from The Canadian Press