Issue of smart meters draws crowd to Lansing
Bill to make it easier to opt out of program
LANSING — Is your smart meter making you sick? Invading your privacy?
An overflow crowd of more than 150 people jammed into a committee hearing today to voice their support for a bill that would make it easier for utility customers to have smart meters removed from their homes or refuse to have them installed at all.
The meters allow utilities to track electric and gas usage, as well as outages, remotely, instead of having someone come read the meter.
hose opposed to the meters say they are a source of health problems, an invasion of privacy and put customers and the electric grid at risk for hacking.
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“This is an infringement on a homeowner’s property rights,” said Michelle Rison of Spring Lake. “Smart meters provide a gateway for getting information on activity in the home.”
David Lonier of Auburn Hills said the electromagnetic waves from smart meters are harmful to health.
“We know if we get near them our bodies won’t cook, but what if we get near 40 of them?” he asked.
Only a fraction of the customers of Consumers Energy and DTE Energy — 7,000 Consumers customers and 8,000 from DTE out of a total of 4 million Michigan customers — have opted out of getting the smart meters installed, but they are vocal in their protests. Customers have to pay to opt out: a $70 initial fee and $10 monthly charge to have a utility employee read the meter. The bill would cap the monthly fee at $5 and allow the utility to set the initial fee at only the actual cost of removing the smart meter.
The Michigan Public Service Commission has reviewed available scientific data on smart meters and come to the conclusion that they are safe. The commission supports the utilities’ plans to transition to smart meters.
“After careful review of the available literature and studies, the staff has determined that the health risk from the installation and operation of metering systems using radio transmitters is insignificant,” the commission reported in 2012. “In addition, the appropriate federal health and safety regulations provide assurance that smart meters represent a safe technology.”
The technology also allows for more accurate readings of electric use and has the ability to report energy usage statistics back to customers on a daily basis so they can better manage their electrical needs.
“There is value with these meters,” said Lisa DeLacy, executive director of smart energy for Consumers Energy, which opposes the bill. “Customers get bill accuracy, online data on their consumption, and quicker notification of outages. And it alleviates the need for Consumers to go into homes and yards to read the meters.”
DTE said the legislation will result in $9 million in uncompensated costs for the utility and its customers.