In two or three weeks, tri-county area residents will have the option to be a part of the controversial Smart Energy Program by Consumers Energy.
Residents in Argentine Town-ship, Linden and the greater Fenton Township area should have received their first letter in the mail about upgrading the smart meters Consumers Energy has been installing around Michigan since 2012.
These new electrical communicating meters connect to the meter socket in a home and measure the home’s energy usage, according to Consumers Energy. Data is sent as a text-type message to Consumers by a cell phone tower every day on a secure network.
Customers can view their information every day on the Consumers Energy website, which alerts homeowners when their usage is higher than usual, and how it compares to the neighbors’ usage rates.
It also has information on projected energy costs, how the weather affects an energy bill, energy-saving tips, and it helps customers set goals on reducing energy usage, according to Consumers Energy. Customers will also be able to choose their own billing date.
In 2016, these meters will be able to alert Consumers on the location of power outages.
“The program is a $750 million program with a $1.9 billion benefit to our customers,” said Dennis McKee, communications director for the Smart Energy Program.
Consumers started upgrading their technology in 2012 in west Michigan. They’re working across the east side and expect to be completed by the end of 2017.
The meters are not harmful to human health. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined the radio frequency emitted from the smart meters was safe for humans, McKee said.
“MPSC (Michigan Public Service Commission) looked into every possible issue and concluded that the meter technology is safe and beneficial for our customers,” he said.
Residents who don’t want to be a part of the program can still use the old manual reading program, he said. However, there is a fee.
According to Consumers Energy, residents who opt out after the smart meter is upgraded will face a fine of $123.91.
If you notify the company you’re opting out of the program before they upgrade the smart meter, a fee of $69.39 will be put on your bill to pay for labor costs and continued support of the meter technology. There’s also a fee of $9.72 per month to cover costs of labor for a manual meter read and costs to support using the old technology.
“Only half of 1 percent opt to keep their old technology,” he said. “We are overwhelmed by positive reactions with the new smart technology.”
It’s too early in the program to measure how effective the smart meters are.
Consumers plans to upgrade the meters in the greater Fenton area, Argentine and Linden in the next few weeks. Residents east of U.S. 23 in Fenton and Holly Township will have meter upgrades soon after, and residents in Tyrone Township and Holly should expect upgrades in September.
Smart Meters by Consumers Energy
• The entire program will upgrade 1.8 million electric meters and 600,000 natural gas meters for customers who receive gas from Consumers as well. Communication modules will be installed on the natural gas meters.
• Residents don’t have to be home for the upgrades, but they can make appointments if they wish.
• Businesses will be contacted by mailings, calls, or outreach meetings depending on size and amount of electrical service.
Source: Consumers Energy
Smart Meters by DTE
• DTE has also been upgrading their meters using Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) for customers in southeast Michigan. These new meters are no charge for customers.
• All four million DTE electric and gas meters are expected to be replaced in a few years.
• These new electric meters will use secure, low-power radio transmissions to send homeowners’ energy information to the company.
• The new electric meter will have a digital display. A radio-frequency transmitter will be installed in the back of the natural gas meter so it will not look any different.
• According to DTE, these meters will lower the amount of estimated bills, increase meter reading process efficiency, have automated power outage detection, and will give customers access to daily energy usage information.
• The FCC has deemed the amount of radio frequency emitted is safe.
• Customers who choose to opt out will have a one-time fee of $67.20 and a recurring fee of $9.80.
• DTE customers in Livingston County and Genesee County should expect new meters in 2016 or 2017.