Hawaiian Electric to replace 1,200 meters after overheating reported

News

Hawaiian Electric is notifying commercial customers about a potential hazard that relates to a particular brand of electric meter installed at businesses on Oahu.

The company is moving quickly to replace 1,200 meters at highest risk for failure.

No residential meters are affected. The affected meters are commercial equipment that operates at higher voltage than residential meters. They are standard commercial meters, not wireless “smart” meters.

To date, 10 commercial meters have overheated, shattering the plastic cover on some of the units. No injuries or significant property damage have been reported but because of the potential risk, the company is notifying business owners and property managers with letters, calls and personal visits.

While many commercial meters are in locked closets or cabinets, affected businesses that have electric meters in high-traffic areas or near workspaces are urged to keep people and combustible materials away from the meters until they can be replaced.

“We want to be sure that the public is safe for one, because these are businesses and we want to make sure that where you have meters, sometimes it can be in an area where the public is. It’s a throughway. People can pass by the meter and we just don’t want it overheating or having the casing shatter while the public is around,” said Shannon Tangonan, HECO spokeswoman.

The company believes meters that have been in service six years or longer pose a higher risk, so those meters – about 600 – are being prioritized for replacement by Oct. 26. Switching the high priority meters began last week and continued over the weekend, when about 250 were replaced.

The plan is to ultimately replace all 1,200 meters with equipment from a different manufacturer. Permanent replacement of all affected meters will take several weeks as new equipment is shipped from the mainland.

“We believe the risk is small, but we’re not taking any chances,” said Jim Alberts, senior vice president of customer service. “Safety is our priority so we’re moving quickly to replace the affected meters and let the public know about the problem.”

While there are 33,000 commercial customers on Oahu, Hawaiian Electric narrowed down the potentially hazardous meters to one brand and model using a particular voltage. The failed meters are Itron Sentinel model SS4S1D units being supplied 277/480 volts.

Several of the failed meters were sent to the manufacturer for testing. Hawaiian Electric is still in discussions with the manufacturer about the cause of the failures but because of the potential risk to customers decided to move ahead with the notification and replacement effort while continuing to investigate the cause of the failures.

The meters are being replaced at no cost to customers. Business customers will be contacted by letter, phone or personal visit from a Hawaiian Electric representative. If you are not contacted by Oct. 29, your business is not affected.

Business customers may call 543-7777 for more information.

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