Saginaw Township lawmaker questions ‘smart meter’ technology fees
SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI — A lawmaker from the Saginaw area says a Michigan Court of Appeals judge made the right decision in questioning the fees associated with “smart meter” technology being installed by utilities in the state.
State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, said he agrees that the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) should look more closely at its authorized opt-out program for utility customers.
meter’ technology fees
“To require a customer to pay for a new meter, even when their analog meter is in working condition, shows blatant disrespect for the struggling families in Michigan,” Kelly said.
The MPSC issued an order in 2013 setting the fees that Consumers Energy can charge customers not wanting to participate in the smart meter program or wanting an existing smart meter removed for more traditional technology.
Those proposed fees were as follows:
For opting out prior to installation: A one-time charge of $69.39
For removing an existing smart meter: A one-time charge of $123.91
To cover ongoing costs associated with opting out: $9.72 per month
Smart meters are digital devices that have two-way communication capabilities with Consumers Energy electrical operations staff. The digital meters provide an upgrade for the new “smart grid” that is being rolled out across the nation.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argued to suspend Consumers’ smart meter program, saying the costs to customers outweigh the benefits. Schuette filed an appeal of the MPSC order to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2013.
Consumers Energy claims smart meters will save the public money on their utility bills.
But in his July ruling, the state judge called the argument “inherently illogical,” pointing out that Consumers plans to add millions of dollars to its base rate to fund the program.
Kelly said he agrees with Schuette that utility customers should be given a choice to opt-out of smart meter technology without an economic penalty.
“Many of the constituents are asking how the utility companies are justifying the replacement of all the current meters with more expensive units when they have not proven that there will be a cost savings with the switch,” he said.
Though he did not agree with the proposed fees, Kelly said he finds it encouraging that the Public Service Commission will delve deeper into both the financial issue and customer concerns on data collection, privacy and cyber security.
“With our electrical grid vulnerable to cyber-attacks, it only makes sense to try and safeguard our citizens with the introduction of this technology,” he said. “Smart meters are not immune from hacking and the sophistication of criminals has risen to a level of great concern. The ability of these meters to work remotely poses a greater threat than ever before and our constituents deserve the reassurance that their data will be secure.”
The state representative said he believes legislation is warranted in this case to ensure consumer choice.
Kelly was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2012, and re-elected to a second term in November 2014.
He represents the 94th State House District in Saginaw County. The district is comprised of the city of Frankenmuth and the townships of Albee, Birch Run, Blumfield, Frankenmuth, Swan Creek, St. Charles, Taymouth, Thomas, Tittabawassee and Saginaw.