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Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is shown in Toronto on Oct. 28, 2013. (FERNANDO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is shown in Toronto on Oct. 28, 2013. (FERNANDO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Customers won’t bear cost of replacing SaskPower’s fire-prone meters: premier Add to ...

It looks like SaskPower ratepayers will not be on the hook for the cost of replacing 105,000 defective smart meters.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the government will go after the manufacturer, Census, for a portion of the $15-million cost.

The province is pulling the plug on the power meters due to public safety concerns following at least eight fires.

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SaskPower has been ordered to remove any smart meters already in use and install the old ones.

Mike Marsh with SaskPower says after removal, the full cost of the failed program will be $47-million.

He also admits that even though there was evidence of failures in other markets such as Portland, Ore., they went ahead with the use of the meters.

“We looked into it closely with the company,” he said. “We evaluated the type of meter that was used in other jurisdictions versus the meter we’re using, and we made the decision that it was still an appropriate meter to go with.”

Saskatchewan’s Crown Investments Corp. has been asked to investigate and SaskPower is conducting an internal review.

The problem in Saskatchewan has prompted officials in Medicine Hat, Alta., to suspend installation of electricity smart meters in that city.

“We’re going to be pursuing redress from the company in whatever way we can,” Wall said Thursday. “We can start with negotiations and, if that doesn’t work, we’ll take the next step.”

SaskPower initially gave people the option of switching back to their old power meters. About 530 customers took the utility up on the offer.

The Opposition NDP has said the Saskatchewan Party government did not do its due diligence before going ahead with the devices.

A smart meter records consumption of energy in small intervals and can relay the information electronically to a utilities company. It eliminates the need to estimate bills when a meter reader can’t do an on-site check.

In Medicine Hat, communications officer Wilbur McLean said crews have wrapped up about 95 per cent of 29,000 smart meter installations on the electrical side with no problems.

He said each installation has had mandatory requirements.

“One, there’s a visual inspection of the meter socket, which is part of the house where the meter is installed,” McLean said. “The second thing we do is we have a photograph taken of every single socket, send that to the utility and inspect it again.”

The third requirement is to have each meter equipped with a silent alarm.

“If that connection ever reaches 80 degrees Celsius, the utility dispatches a crew to go and investigate.”

McLean said there’s no word on how long installations will be on hold.

Smart meters for natural gas and water are not being suspended.

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