In U.S. and Canada, “Smart Meter” Fires Spark Alarm

By:  Alex Newman
In U.S. and Canada, “Smart Meter” Fires Spark Alarm

All across the United States, Canada, and beyond, deeply controversial “smart meters” for electricity have been catching on fire and even exploding, sparking a major scandal that in at least one Canadian province has forced authorities to start removing all of the more than 100,000 devices.

In Oregon, utility officials also announced that tens of thousands of smart meters were being replaced following numerous reports of fires. With the manufacturer saying the problems are systemic in the industry, experts predict more disasters to come as governments continue foisting the “smart grid” on the world in the face of growing opposition. 

With the latest news of fires and explosions, it now seems to critics and politicians that in the frantic rush to impose the "smart" electric meters in defiance of public resistance, serious safety concerns were pushed aside — along with growing fears about the health and privacy implications surrounding the technology. With the latest news about the potentially deadly consequences, officials across the continent are scrambling for answers, and taxpayers are likely to be stuck with a massive bill.

A series of at least 10 fires in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan attributed to the digital electric meters, which have stirred fierce resistance in some areas due to health and privacy concerns, prompted utility provider SaskPower to announce that it would be removing all of them. The recalled meters will be replaced with the older, lower-tech analog meters that cannot be monitored or controlled remotely. After initially dismissing the widespread safety concerns raised by critics, politicians responsible for the mess, under heavy fire from activists, are now claiming to be concerned as well.    

“I think the concerns about safety are paramount here, the concerns are significant enough, anytime families are at risk in Saskatchewan, actions have to be taken and that’s why we’ve directed SaskPower accordingly,” explained Bill Boyd, the provincial minister of Energy and Resources, who ordered the utility to remove the smart meters after the fires. “I don’t know whether there was enough testing done. We’ll certainly be conducting, along with SaskPower, an internal review of the procurement procedures around this, around the safety concerns people had.”

Boyd continued, officials intend to get to the bottom of the fiasco to identify the culprits as well. “We want to determine when these were originally ordered, if there were safety concerns known at that point in time, so we have a lot of questions we’re going to be discussing with SaskPower about how this came to be,” Boyd was quoted as saying in Canadian media reports. “We view it as similar to a recall situation and the people of Saskatchewan shouldn’t be responsible for the costs of this and we’ll do everything we can to recover those costs.”

Estimates suggest the removals will cost around $15 million and should take six to nine months to complete, according to news reports. Other figures suggest the price tag for the entire fiasco could be as high as $50 million. So far, nobody has taken the blame, including the manufacturer of the fire-producing meters, North Carolina-based Sensus. The company blamed “external factors,” such as “water intrusion,” “hot socket conditions,” “over voltage in the distribution system,” and “holes in meter boxes” for the fires. It also said investigations were underway.

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