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State Agency Launches Smart Meter Investigation

The Michigan Public Service Commission will ask DTE about safety, privacy and whether customers can opt out of the new smart meter program.

Spurred by , including Rochester and Rochester Hills, the Michigan Public Service Commission on Thursday launched an investigation into the deployment of smart meters by DTE Energy and other regulated electric utilities in the state.

DTE is installing 600,000 smart meters in southeast Michigan as part of an $83.8 million grant.

Smart meters measure and record electricity usage with digital technology instead of the traditional gears and dials. The technology involves the use of radio frequency waves to transmit data to DTE.

They are being installed in Rochester and Rochester Hills, where residents successfully urged both city councils last month to approve resolutions urging the MPSC to investigation concerns about safety and privacy.

According to a news release, Thursday's order directs all regulated electric utilities to submit information to the commission by March 16 on the following topics:

  • The electric utility's existing plans for the deployment of smart meters;
  • The estimated cost of deploying smart meters and any sources of funding;
  • An estimate of the savings to be achieved by the deployment of smart meters;
  • An explanation of any other non-monetary benefits that might be realized from the deployment of smart meters;
  • Any scientific informa­tion known to the electric utility that bears on the safety of the smart meters;
  • An explanation of the type of information that will be gathered by the electric utility through the use of smart meters;
  • An explanation of the steps that the electric utility intends to take to safeguard the privacy of the customer information;
  • Whether the electric utility intends to allow customers to opt out of having a smart meter; and
  • How the electric utility intends to recover the cost of an opt-out program, if one will exist.

A DTE representative said the company will cooperate with the commission's orders.

"We firmly believe that the new meters are perfectly safe, and safe in terms of health and safety, and in terms of customer information," DTE spokesman John Austerberry told The Detroit News.

"We also believe they provide significant benefits to the customer, but we will cooperate fully with the MPSC in their review."

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, applauded the commission's investigation and said he will still move ahead with his own plans to craft a law that would require residents to be able to opt out of the smart meter program.

"The public deserves to know the truth about this technology and not only the stated uses, but also possible future uses, like maybe shutting off power to homes who the government feels is using too much energy," McMillin said Friday morning.

The MPSC is an agency within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The commission's order directs staff members to prepare a report on the findings by June 29.

How to voice your opinion

The commission will accept comments about the information being submitted by the utility companies. Here's how to voice yours:

  • Written comments should be sent to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, Michigan 48909. 
  • Email comments may be sent to: mpscedockets@michigan.gov.
  • If you require assistance filing comments, contact commission staff at 517-241-6180. 
  • All comments should reference "Case No. U-17000."
  • You have until 5 p.m. April 16 to file comments.
  • Comments and other documents received by the commission will become public information posted on the commission's website.
chris murray January 13, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I'll be watching to see how this goes. I just know that it apparently will provide greater accuracy in reading the meter. Just opened my bill this month and it is a -$261.56. That's right I won't be paying a bill for a couple months since my meter either wasn't getting read or was being misread. I guess time will tell.
Kristin Bull (Editor) January 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Just updated the story to include reaction from Tom McMillin, who is drafting his own bill that would require an "opt out" option.
Sherry January 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
We just had a meter installed this morning. Must say, DTE politely knocked on the door first to alert us to the change, as well as inform us of the temporary (it ended up being perhaps a minute) power outage.
Daryl Patrishkoff January 13, 2012 at 06:52 PM
We had our meter installed a few weeks ago, it went well, and the DTE technician was very informative and polite. The short power outage was the only minor inconvenience, the technician warned us of this and there was no surprise. I believe this is technology progress in accuracy and service and will save DTE some money; there is nothing wrong in that. I have no concerns about health and privacy issues, I think some people are over reacting on this issue, but that is my opinion.
Erin January 13, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I don't have any of the concerns voiced by residents of the area in recent months. And, I think the meters will help with efficiency. And yes, a very polite DTE worker knocked on my door and gave me a moment to save some data on my computer before a very brief power disruption. However, immediately after installation, I noted a constant clackity clack noise on all my phones! Argh. I wouldn't have connected it except for the fact I was on the phone just prior to the installation, and the phone was fine. Immediately after installation, I went back to my morning phone calls and - clackity clack - all 4 phones. I will call Comcast first to see if we can resolve. Maybe the base phone is too close to the meter? It's been two days - it's so annoying! Has anyone else experienced this problem?
Will Hanson January 14, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Mr. McMillan, I think there is a better chance someone having their power cut off for failure to pay their bill than using "too much power." What exactly would too much power use be anyway?-Christmas lights? recharging electric vehicle? Tom, it's time to put this issue to rest along with your lightbulb factory and move on to 21st century issues like jobs and education. For those who opt out, are you willing to pay to have someone come to your house and read your meter?

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