If the old “roller counters” could last more than 25 years, the new so-called “smart” devices have a much shorter lifespan. More than 300,000 of them, many of which were defective, have had to be replaced by Hydro-Québec over the past three years, it was learned The newspaper.
This is an accelerating phenomenon. In 2018, the state company changed 112,000 meters, had already reported The newspaper.
But in 2019 that number 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 mostly “smart” new meters, including a batch of 23,000 AXI types that failed.
“These were a manufacturing defect. The meters went out and no longer transmitted consumption data. They were repaired or replaced and the manufacturer paid for it,” explains spokeswoman Cendrix Bouchard.
This year, Hydro-Québec plans to replace 13,000 meters manufactured by Landis + Gyr (which supplies 80% of all equipment) just nine years after their installation in 2013. These meters had a lifespan of 18 years.
Crown Corporation states that after 10 years, Measurement Canada asks for a spot check of installed gauges. According to the results, Hydro removes those that “need to be replaced.”
“It’s a bit like a vehicle overhaul. It is possible that the meters will be used for another 8 years. […] In terms of proportions, this is not unusual. We are talking about 13,000 meters out of 1 million installed this year,” explains Mr. Bouchard.
Not “lemons,” says Hydro
This means that in just over three years the state-owned company will have replaced 8% of all its meters in a fleet of 4 million. According to Hydro, there are several reasons for these replacements, but 56% of the cases involved faulty devices, raising doubts about the reliability of their system.
Photo Heloise Archambault
“We’re talking about advanced technologies, we’re not talking about lemons. There may be operational issues, that’s for sure. […] But thanks to these gauges, we can use tools like Dynamic Pricing and Hilo,” assures Mr. Bouchard.
These changes cost $25 million over 10 years for the labor alone. However, Hydro could not specify the cost of replacing a meter after the manufacturer’s warranty had expired.
Despite our repeated calls, Landis + Gyr did not answer our questions.
“I think there are questions that need to be asked of the manufacturer chosen by Hydro. Is it the same everywhere? asks Dominic Champagne, chairman of the SCFP 2000 union, which represents workers replacing meters.
“Shall we review our contracts? You have to dig and get answers, now is not the time to throw away money, not the windows,” he said in an interview with The newspaper.
ELECTRICITY METERS COMING SOON
- There is 4 million of Hydro-Québec meters in operation, most supplied by the manufacturer Switzerland Landis+Gyr
- In three years, 300,000 Counters had to be replaced
- in the 56% cases they were malfunction
The “Center of Excellence”, no longer sustainable
In 2011, Hydro-Québec embarked on the smart meter adventure, awarding the contract to manufacturer Landis+Gyr, while also laying off a Québec company, Varitron.
The selected Swiss company, which had no employees in Quebec, had promised to create a center of excellence with 75 employees. At the time, Hydro’s CEO Thierry Vandal hailed the decision as “the best choice” for Quebec.
More than ten years later, The newspaper wanted to know the true benefits of this “centre of excellence”.
“I don’t really have a lot of details. It is a competence center independent of us. Landis+Gyr implemented it, so we need to check with them,” explained Hydro spokesman Cendrix Bouchard.
Contacted by The newspaperthe Swiss manufacturer never answered our questions. A Quebec spokesman was hired by the company a few years ago, but that is no longer the case.
According to the commercial register, there is another subsidiary of Landis+Gyr, in Longueuil, Chemin de la Savane. It would always be between one and five employees.
No trace left
But when passing the protocol at the given address no trace of the manufacturer or a “competence center”. A construction company now has a shop window there.
How many employees have been hired over the years? Hard to say. In 2013, only one employee was on site during a previous audit. At that time we had promised to hire at least 25 people.
Varitron was sold to an American company in 2021.