If the old “roller” meters could last more than 25 years, the new so-called “smart” devices have a much shorter useful life. Hydro-Québec has had to replace more than 300,000 of them, many of which were faulty, in the last three years, he learned. The newspaper.
This is an accelerated phenomenon. In 2018, the state company had changed 112,000 meters, it had already reported The newspaper.
But, in 2019, this figure had risen to 127,000. In 2020, the total was 59,000, due to the arrival of COVID-19.
Then last year Hydro replaced 120,000 of its new, mostly ‘smart’ meters, including a batch of 23,000 AXI-types that were faulty.
“For these, it was a manufacturing defect. The meters were turned off and no longer communicated consumption data. They were repaired or replaced and it was the manufacturer who assumed the costs”, explained spokesman Cendrix Bouchard.
For the current year, Hydro-Québec plans to replace 13,000 meters from the manufacturer Landis + Gyr (which supplies 80% of all devices), just nine years after their installation in 2013. These meters had a useful life of 18 years.
Crown Corporation explains that after 10 years, Measurement Canada asks to randomly check the meters that have been installed. Based on the results, Hydro is weeding out those that “need replacement.”
“It’s a bit like a vehicle inspection. Meters may continue to be used for another 8-year period. […] In terms of proportions, this is not abnormal. We are talking about 13,000 meters out of a million installed that year”, explains Mr. Bouchard.
No ‘lemons’, says Hydro
This means that the state corporation will have replaced 8% of all its meters in a fleet of 4 million, in just over three years. Hydro says there are various reasons for these replacements, but 56% of cases were for faulty devices, casting doubt on the reliability of their system.
Photo Heloise Archambault
“We are talking about advanced technologies, we are not talking about lemons. There may be operational problems, that’s for sure. […] But thanks to these gauges, it allows us to have tools like dynamic pricing and Hilo,” says Mr. Bouchard.
These changes involved costs of $25 million over 10 years for labor alone. However, Hydro was unable to detail the costs of changing a meter after the manufacturer’s warranty.
Despite our repeated calls, Landis + Gyr did not respond to our questions.
“I think there are questions to be asked with Hydro’s chosen manufacturer. Is it the same everywhere?” asks Dominic Champagne, president of the SCFP 2000 union, which represents employees who replace meters.
“Should we review our contracts? You have to inquire and get answers, this is not the time to throw away money or windows,” she said in an interview with The newspaper.
ELECTRICITY METERS IN BRIEF
- There are 4 millions of Hydro-Québec meters in operation, most supplied by the manufacturer Switzerland Landis+Gyr
- In three years, 300,000 counters had to be substituted
- Within 56% cases that were defective
The “centre of excellence”, no longer sustainable
In 2011, Hydro-Québec embarked on the smart meter adventure, awarding the contract to manufacturer Landis+Gyr, laying off a Quebec company, Varitron, in the process.
The chosen Swiss company, which had no employees in Quebec, had committed to creating a center of excellence with 75 employees. At the time, Hydro CEO Thierry Vandal touted the decision as “the best option” for Quebec.
More than ten years later, The newspaper wanted to know the real benefits of this “center of excellence”.
“I don’t really have a lot of details. It is a center of excellence independent of us. Landis+Gyr implemented it, so it is with them that we have to check,” explained Hydro spokesman Cendrix Bouchard.
contacted by The newspaper, the Swiss manufacturer never responded to our questions. A few years ago, the company hired a spokesperson from Quebec, but that is no longer the case.
According to the commercial register, there is still a subsidiary of Landis+Gyr, in Longueuil, chemin de la Savane. There would always be between one and five employees.
no more trail
But when passing the Trunk at the indicated address, no trace of the manufacturer or any “centre of excellence”. A construction company now has a store there.
How many employees have been hired over the years? Hard to say. In 2013, during a previous audit, there was only one employee on site. At that time, we had promised to hire at least 25 people.
As for Varitron, the company was sold to an American company in 2021.
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