CE defends smart meters, not everyone is convinced

CE defends smart meters, not everyone is convinced

Consumers Energy customers not happy with new smart meters

Consumers Energy customers not happy with new smart meters

Some Consumers Energy customers not happy with new smart meters
MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – (02/13/17) – They’re called smart meters, and chances are you have one, but not all are happy with Consumers Energy’s newest way to monitor your electricity usage.

In fact, a state representative is attempting to make it less costly to opt out of the smart reader program.

Some people say their bills are higher, they feel it’s an invasion of privacy and there are health concerns, but Consumers Energy says they have received few complaints.

Debbie Jacalone wants Consumers Energy to know she doesn’t want a smart meter, by placing signs on her analog meters. She says has had health problems in the past.

“I don’t want any smart meters at my home,” she said. “When I go to homes with smart meters, I just feel worse, I feel like I get headaches, I feel like I get tired, sometimes I feel like I am wired.”

Consumers Energy plans to have most of its 1.9 million customers using the smart meters by the end of the year.

“We have began updating our electric meter technology,” said Dennis McKee, of Consumers Energy. “So our customers can get online access to their energy use information, no more estimated meter reads, and finally, the meters can let us know when there is a power outage. These are communicating digital meters, they send one text type message each day letting us know how much electricity each customer has used.”

He also says the frequency emissions put out by the smart meters fall well below guidelines set by the Federal Communication Commission and do not pose a health risk.

“It really goes back to a lot of myths and misunderstandings on the Internet, frankly, and one of the biggest ones, somehow this is a government-related program. We are not the government, we are just a utility trying to provide better service by using technology,” McKee said.

Jacalone is not convinced about the health risks and she is also against paying the fees charged by Consumers Energy to customers who don’t install smart meters. There is a one time charge of about $69 and $10 dollars each month to help pay for meter readers and equipment.

“I don’t feel like we should pay for an opt out either, because it’s not just a one time fee, it’s an ongoing charge,” she said.

McKee says 99.5 percent of its customers where smart meters are available are using those meters.

State representative Gary Glenn says he is hearing the complaints from his constituents.

“Smart meter technology was supposed to lower electricity bills. We have heard from people whose bills have gone up,” he said.

McKee says a small percentage of customers have opted out.

“The reason those opt out costs exists is so that those customers who choose to opt out, that one half of one percent, they pay the costs associated with those additional services,” he said.

Glenn says he will propose legislation that will eliminate the opt out costs for customers.

“I think it’s outrageous, especially when you are a monopoly and the homeowner is not free to choose to buy electricity somewhere else,” Glenn said. “It doesn’t matter why a homeowner may not want to have this technology installed, it should be up to that individual homeowner.”

Glenn hopes to introduce that legislation to do away with opt out costs soon.