Customers surprised Nova Scotia Power upgraded meters without permission
Two customers lost power for hours after meters were upgraded
January 17, 2020, 2:12 pm ASTLast Updated: January 30, 2020, 1:55 pm
This story contains a correction
Kira Noble came home from work one day last fall to find the lights out and two dark silhouettes standing in the window of her Lower Sackville home.
She said the two men told her they were subcontracted by Nova Scotia Power (NSP) to install her smart meter, even though she never asked for one.
“I just felt very violated,” she said. “These men were in my home all day when no one was here.”
Nova Scotia Power is in the process of installing smart meters at 510,000 homes and businesses in the province. The standard meters require a NSP employee to manually read the data on the meter every two months.
Customers are permitted to opt out by filling out a form online. If they don’t fill out the form, it will be assumed that the customer is allowing the upgrade, according to NSP.
Noble said NSP called her earlier that day to say they broke her meter while they were upgrading it, leaving her without power. She had no idea contractors were at her house.
In a phone call with the power company, Noble said she was told they needed to get into her home to turn off the main switch. They told her it would only take an hour, but they were still there when she got home that evening. A babysitter let them in.
Power wasn’t restored until midnight.
“Power is a luxury, I know. But when you are an elderly person or you have babies or whatever the case may be, it’s a big deal,” Noble said. “They need to schedule times and tell you what you might encounter.”
Project approved in 2018
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board approved the application by NSP for smart meters in July 2018. The project is estimated to cost up to $133 million and installation is free for customers.
The power utility subcontracted Tribus Services to install smart meters in Nova Scotia in April 2019. Tribus Services installed more than 25 million electric, gas and water smart meters around the United States and Canada, according to its website.
NSP spokesperson Patti Lewis said in an email to The Signal that the installation process began in the fall and will continue until 2021.
Lewis said all customers were notified ahead of the upgrades in the mail with their bill.
‘I didn’t have a clue’
Faye Hynes, another Lower Sackville resident, said she was without power for a few days in November after a storm ripped the electrical wires off her home. She said NSP agreed to upgrade her wiring and meter on March 3, 2020, and provided her with a temporary solution in the meantime.
On Jan. 7, she received a knock on her door. She said a man from NSP told her he was there to upgrade her meter.
“I didn’t have a clue of what he was doing here. I was never informed of the upgrade,” she said. “I told him I would rather him not touch it until the date that we previously agreed on.”
She uses budget billing — she receives her bill monthly, and said she never got the upgrade notification in the mail and didn’t know she could opt out of the upgrade.
“He told me ‘It has to be done. It’s imperative. We have to do it,’” Hynes said. She was told she’d lose power for only 15 minutes and then it would be restored.
Shortly after trying to install the smart meter, Hynes said he broke it. She said she was without power for 11 hours.
Lewis acknowledged NSP’s mistake.
“In this case, the upgrade should not have proceeded. We have apologized to the customer and confirmed our protocols with our technicians so the error doesn’t occur again,” she said in the email.
If a customer refuses this, including stopping a worker at their door, Nova Scotia Power cannot proceed, said Lewis.
More than 300 customers lose power
She said so far, about 2,400 out of 510,000 customers have made the decision to opt out of the smart meter program. Of all 36,317 customers that had smart meters installed, approximately 327 lost power for extended periods of time.
Smart meters use different technology; the device sends the power usage information through a wireless network to the company. The new technology will not officially turn on until 2021, when all meters have been upgraded.
Lewis said the homeowner will have access to all of the same data that NSP will get. She said another benefit is that if the power goes out, the meter will notify NSP and they can send someone out to fix it right away.
Those who choose to keep the traditional meter will be charged an additional fee for the manual readings.
Correction: Jan. 21, 2020: A previous version of this story misstated the number of customers who have decided to opt out of the smart meter program.
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