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Green Building News

Ontario to Yank Some Smart Meters

The order affects only a small percentage of the millions of meters that have been installed. In Maine, critics appeal a ruling the meters are safe.

Smart meters, like this one installed on a home in Maine, allow two-way communication between the utility and the customer, providing a better understanding of customer demand and a way to prevent blackouts. File photo.

Authorities in Ontario have ordered the removal of 5,400 smart meters because of the possibility they could start fires.

The Electrical Safety Authority announced Jan. 22 the removal of the Sensus 3.2 meters that are equipped with a remote disconnect feature, The Toronto Star’s website reported. The affected meters are a tiny percentage of the 4.8 million advanced electric meters that have been installed in the province.

“This particular meter is in very limited use,” David Collie, the authority’s CEO, told the newspaper. There are some 50,000 Sensus meters in the province, but the safety concerns are only with the remote-disconnect models used at some seasonal properties.

The authority began its investigation after eight unexplained minor fires in Saskatchewan last summer connected with a different Sensus model, the 3.3.

Sensus, based in North Carolina, said it was disappointed with the decision, and said the meters have a “perfect record in Ontario,” according to the report.

The installation of smart meters, which allow utilities to track electricity use and manage the grid more effectively than the old analog meters, has been become a political football in the province. Ontario’s auditor general last month criticized the $2 billion smart meter program for cost overruns and poor performance.

In Saskatchewan, Greentech Media reports, Sensus meters also have been under fire. SaskPower last year decided to yank 105,000 of the meters. While Sensus meters later passed UL safety tests, the utility is still asking the company to spend $5 million for meter upgrades.

Sensus meters also were suspected in nine fires in Nevada. Utility regulators there last year ordered an investigation.

Maine activists will fight ruling

In Maine, it is the risk of adverse health effects rather than fire that is motivating critics.

Critics argue the radio waves emitted by the meters are a potential health risk. But last December, the state’s Public Utilities Commission found the evidence is unconvincing. The meter program, it said, “does not present a credible threat to the health and safety of [Central Maine Power] customers and, based on the record of this proceeding is, therefore, safe.”

Now, the Maine Public Broadcasting Networks reports, opponents have filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Their attorney, Bruce McLaughlin, said his clients want the court to fine the PUC decision is contrary to law.

The group, the Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters, said in a press release announcing the appeal:

“In every state and country where smart meters have been or may be installed, there is continued opposition from citizen groups concerned with 24/7 radiation emissions deemed by the World Health Organization to be a possible carcinogen, invasion of privacy for the electronic records the meters record, theft of personal data, infringement of several constitutional rights and compromising of personal and grid cybersecurity.”


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