DTE ‘smart meters’ to become optional

July 7, 2012 at 1:00 am
By Steve Pardo The Detroit News 5 Comments

Detroit — DTE Energy agrees with a state agency report that says consumers should be able to opt out of the high-tech “smart meters” that are monitoring electricity use in about 800,000 southeast Michigan homes.

But residents who choose not to switch to the new meters can expect an additional charge, said Scott Simons, DTE spokesman.

“We understand there are some concerns about advance meters, and that’s why we are going to offer an opt-out program,” Simons said. “There will be a charge. That (amount) hasn’t been finalized yet.”

The charge will be to pay for the extra costs associated with using the old meters, which require an energy worker to come in and read the meter. DTE plans to submit a proposal to the Public Service Commission within a month, Simons said.

The so-called smart meters use radio frequencies to measure energy usage and don’t require manual reading.

It’s the radio frequencies that worry people such as Pauline Holeton, 61, of Shelby Township, who has spoken out against the high-tech meters. She and others are worried about privacy and health issues from the radio waves.

Holeton, along with her husband, founded the website Warriors of American Revolution to spread the word against the meters.

“People need choices, and they don’t have choices. They’re slapping these meters on houses like crazy and not even asking people,” she said. “DTE needs to be cautious about people’s rights and feelings, and they’re neglecting that.”

A staff report written by members of the Michigan Public Service Commission is the end result of an investigation prompted by protests from residents concerned about privacy and potential health dangers from the radio frequencies emitted by the new meters.

DTE plans to install 2.6 million smart meters overall, with 1 million installed by the end of next year. Consumers Energy has completed the first of a four-phase program and intends to install 1.9 million by 2019.

The report will be considered by public service commissioners for their ruling. DTE has been installing the smart meters since 2009. The energy company says the electromechanical meters are more accurate, help crews respond more effectively to power outages and help people manage their electrical use. The report said the Public Service staffers have “determined that the health risk from the installation of metering systems using radio transmitters is insignificant.”

spardo@detnews.com

(313) 222-2112

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