Marysville residents raise concerns over smart meters

Marysville residents raise concerns over smart meters

A DTE subcontractor from URG installs a smart meter in early February. (Jim Bloch — For The Voice)

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Last December, DTE began installing smart meters at 90,000 businesses and homes in Algonac, Fort Gratiot Township, Marine City, Marysville, Port Huron and St. Clair.

While the installations generally appear to have gone smoothly, two Marysville residents raised concerns about the program.

At the end of February, the Marysville City Council, using House Bill 4916 as a model, passed a resolution urging Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Committee on Energy Policy and the Michigan Public Service Commission to investigate the concerns.

The resolution notes that several residents have expressed concern “that smart meters are overly intrusive into their energy usage” and that some “customers have alleged that emissions from smart meters are actually dangerous to their health.”

“The Marysville Council supports the ability of its DTE customers to opt out of the smart meter program on their homes without suffering financial penalties or incurring monthly charges and to also have the choice to retain their analog meter without penalty,” the resolution states.

But that portion of the resolution differs from DTE’s opt-out policy on its website: “The customer of record must call our Customer Service line at (800) 477-4747. The program provides you with the option to have a non-transmitting advanced meter. Customers who enroll in the Opt Out program are required to pay the following fees for each site enrolled in the program: $67.20 initial one-time fee to install a non-transmitting AMI meter; (and a) $9.80 monthly charge.”

Resident Robert Knapp and his daughter Jean Chapdelaine complained to the council on Jan. 11 about the installation of smart meters on their street, which had begun in December.

Chapdelaine told council members that many of their neighbors did not want the smart meters, some because they feared for their health.

When she approached the installer, he told Chapdelaine that he had to knock on every door and ask people if they wanted a smart meter; if no one answered, he could install the meters.

“It was considered an automatic yes,” said Chapdelaine.She walked from house to house with the installer. If the residents were not home, she answered for them, saying “No,” the same response she gave him for her house. The installer gave up and left.

“The following week, they came to my street unannounced,” Chapdelaine said. “I was not there. My son was there. They did not ring the doorbell to say they were there or what they were doing. The tag they put on my door stated they were there, but not what they did. And now I have a new smart meter, which I do not want. I called Detroit Edison and they proceeded to tell me that if I didn’t want the smart meter, I was going to be without power because I wasn’t going to get the analog meter back.”

Chapdelaine referred fellow residents to michiganstopsmartmeters.com. The website accuses DTE’s smart meters of threatening the privacy of residents by prying into their power usage patterns, their health by emitting low levels of radiation and interfering with medical devices and their pocketbooks by charging higher rates for times of individual peak usage, among other things.

The council passed the resolution 6-0 at its regular meeting on Feb. 22. Council member Paul Wessel was absent.

DTE claims the meter will allow residents to find out how much energy they’re using on a daily, even hourly, basis, as well as help the company pinpoint power outages and reduce their duration. The company also claims the meters allow billing to be based on actual usage as opposed to estimated usage and increase the privacy of residents by keeping meter readers out of their yards and businesses.

Mayor Dan Damman read the resolution aloud and asked Chapdelaine if she approved of it.

“This is excellent,” Chapdelaine said. “Thank you.”

“See?” said Damman. “We do listen.”

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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