Canada: Slimme meter fiasco's

donderdag, 21 januari 2016 - Categorie: Berichten Internationaal

Bron 1:
13 jan. 2016

‘Astonishing’: Hydro One pulling plug on 36,000 rural smart meters after years of complaints

Hydro One has taken a new approach to pesky smart meters that refuse to send a reliable signal about electricity consumption in rural Ontario.

Give up on them.

The utility, which was ordered by its provincial masters to install the devices, admits it has decided to manually read roughly 36,000 meters instead of counting on the wireless technology.

“Astonishing,” was the reaction from Lanark-area MPP Randy Hillier, who has been deluged with complaints about Hydro One billing and smart-meter suspicions.

“I’ve been banging my head against the wall for the last five years, saying we’ve got problems with smart meters in rural Ontario.” Since first being elected in 2007, no single issue has attracted as much attention in his riding, he said.

One of the main complaints, Hillier explained, is that the terrain in rural Ontario is such that the wireless meters — which send out a continuous signal to permit time-of-use billing — frequently fail. Turns out it’s absolutely true.

“The evidence has been in front of us for a long time. It doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked and now (there’s) an admission that it will never work.”

His conclusion is based on a letter from Hydro One being sent to a number of residents outside Perth in eastern Ontario, including a handful on Barries Sideroad, about five kilometres north of town.

One was dated Dec. 25, which caused Hillier to wonder whether the utility was now employing elves or festive-resistant computers. But that’s another story.

Here’s a portion: “Over the last few years, we’ve learned that it isn’t possible to economically connect all meters to the smart meter network. Nor is it possible to make all meters communicate reliably enough to issue regular time-of-use (TOU) bills based on actual meter readings.”

So the customer was told Hydro One was moving her to the so-called “two-tier” system, which charges a lower rate for the first block of kilowatt hours, then a higher amount above this threshold. The meter will be read quarterly and bills in between will be based on estimates.

Hillier is pleased with the change. Malfunctioning meters were among several issues that caused a customer relations nightmare for Hydro One in 2013 and 2014.

So much for trying to get people to use off-peak mostly! They basically admit that they cannot make the smart meters work outside of populated areas

When Hydro moved to a new billing system, it was buried with complaints, numbering in the tens of thousands. Some customers were double and tripled bills; some had no bills for months; others were comically billed millions in overcharges.

When Ontario’s ombudsman stepped in, the office of André Marin was flooded with more than 10,000 complaints. Hydro admitted its errors, even sending about a million letters of apology to its customers.

The introduction of smart meters to Ontario, mandated by the Liberal government at a cost of about $2 billion, created peak and off-peak rates that were to spark a conservation drive across the province. The results have been disappointing.

Kelly McParland: Ontario Liberals are peddling Hydro One for the equivalent of a payday loan

“So much for trying to get people to use off-peak mostly!” wrote Barries Sideroad resident Gregory Jaques, who also received a Hydro letter about manually readings. “They basically admit that they cannot make the smart meters work outside of populated areas.”

To make things more curious, Jaques reports that Hydro only weeks ago installed a repeater on an area pole to boost the signal from the meters. It was working fine, he said, when Hydro announced it was abandoning the plan.

“It’s a waste of money, from someone’s point of view.”

Hydro One, meanwhile, says it knew it had a problem on its hands in rural areas and successfully applied to the Ontario Energy Board to switch from TOU meters to manual readings. The board approved the change in March 2015.

Some rural customers were baffled by the technological problems. It was especially laughable when Hydro responded that leafy trees could interrupt the signal, as though the presence of trees in the countryside came as a surprise. At the height of the crisis, Hydro said about six per cent of its one million customers were having “billing issues.”

Hillier only shakes his head at the countless hours customers have spent with Hydro’s call centre, the frustration of trying to be heard and the repeated errors that, in some cases, have threatened financial ruin on small businesses. And, now, to pull the plug on the meters altogether?

“Anytime a government agency doesn’t cause stress or anxiety is an improvement.”

Bron 2:
19 jan. 2016

B.C. Hydro must remove more than 88,000 smart meters

Crown corporation executive says most of the 1.9 million devices will last 20 years, as originally promised

B.C. Hydro needs to remove more than 88,000 smart meters that are either faulty or may not meet Measurement Canada standards, public records show.

On top of that, the Crown corporation wants to replace 8,200 old analog meters and introduce nearly 5,000 new meters that work in rural areas that have poor wireless connections.

The total bill will be at least $20 million.

Despite this information — contained in a request for proposals to supply the new meters — B.C. Hydro’s vice-president of customer service Keith Anderson said he’s “confident” most of the province’s 1.9 million smart meters will last 20 years.

“We’re pretty confident at this point we’ll get the life expectancy we wanted and expected,” Anderson said.

B.C. Hydro estimates that by 2019 it will need to remove 40,000 faulty or failed meters, and another 48,000 meters for testing to see whether they still meet Measurement Canada’s accuracy standards. Hydro says those meters found to meet standards will be put back into its inventory.

The call for bidders closed Jan. 14.

New meters cost $200 each, including installation. Anderson said he was unable to release the budget for the replacement project and could not comment on the length of warranty for smart meters from supplier Itron.

“That’s commercially sensitive to Itron,” Anderson told The Province. “It’s something that we negotiated out past their regular warranty provisions.”

Under its old analog system, B.C. Hydro exchanged about 40,000 meters per year.

Doubts have been raised elsewhere in North America about the lifespan of smart meters. The 2014 annual report by the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario said “distribution companies we consulted said the 15-year estimate is overly optimistic,” compared to 40 years for an analog meter.

The report said smart meters are like other types of information technology: subject to upgrades, short warranties and malfunctions. Moreover, they will likely be obsolete by the time they are re-verified every six-to-10 years by Measurement Canada.

Last October, the chief information officer for Ohio-based FirstEnergy told a U.S. Congress subcommittee on power system security that the lifespan is five to seven years.

“These devices are now computers, and so they have to be maintained,” Bennett Gaines testified.

Anderson said he was not familiar enough to comment on either the Ontario report or that testimony, but said B.C. Hydro’s units are more advanced.

NDP critic Adrian Dix doubts both the 20-year life estimate and planned 20-year amortization period in the 2011 business plan. The project was budgeted at $930 million.

Dix said the number of failures would “presumably continue to go up as the smart meters get older.”

“Would you amortize your TV over 20 years? Would you amortize your cellphone over 20 years?” Dix said. “I don’t think you would. This is what B.C. Hydro has done or been ordered to do by the government.”

The tendering documents also show that the Crown corporation wants to replace 4,180 units by the end of March with ones that are cellular compatible. Those non-communicating units removed from rural areas and behind concrete walls will be returned to Hydro’s inventory.

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