Residents will be able to opt out of smart meters, according to a DTE spokesman who indicated that an opt-out provision will be included in a report to be filed Friday by DTE with the Michigan Public Services Commission.
Smart meters, or advanced meters, have a digital read-out and allow for a remote read, using radio waves, which eliminates the need for a manual reading. The technology is being used by utilities nationwide, including DTE and Consumers Energy, to replace electric meters, but is being met with opposition from some residents in several communities who say the meters are unsafe, provide utilities too much information about energy usage and compromise privacy.
On Tuesday, DTE spokesman Len Singer said DTE was still finalizing the report so opt-out details were not available. DTE is committed to the smart meters, said Singer, who reiterated that the meters are safe.
“We understand that this is an emotional issue for some, and we decided that the opt out was the best course of action,” Singer said.
The City Council was approached by opponents of the smart meters at several meetings this year and late last year. The opponents asked that the council stop DTE from installing the meters or at least pass a resolution requesting a moratorium on them.
The MPSC had opened up an investigation after several electric customers and municipalities had expressed concerns about the meters. The MPSC wanted utilities to submit information on plans and costs of meter deployment, nonmonetary benefits of the meters, scientific information “that bears on the safety of the smart meters” and privacy safeguards. The commission also asked whether the electric utilities intend to allow customers to opt out of having a smart meter.
Meeting on Monday
Councilwoman Maureen Miller Brosnan, who chairs the council’s Infrastructure and Community Transit Committee, scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, March 19, at Livonia City Hall so residents and others opposed to the meters will have a chance to air their concerns. DTE Energy will also have representation at the meeting.
Brosnan suggested and the council agreed to hold the infrastructure committee meeting so residents and the council could hear DTE’s response to concerns about the meters.
Mayor Jack Kirksey said last week that some smart meters were installed in Livonia, but were not activated by DTE. Kirksey said he made that request of DTE until all the hearings were conducted at the local and state levels. He also said DTE was going to allow the opt-out provision.
Several residents appeared last week to discuss the meters. Ron Yarbrough read a House bill that would prohibit utilities from making electrical service contingent on the installation of the advanced meters and require them to let consumers know how to opt out. The bill also prohibits the use of information from the meters by law enforcement unless that agency obtains a search warrant or court order.
Suzanne Yarbrough compared the smart meters to a “peeping Tom.” “I don’t want anyone looking into my personal information or my use of anything, my toaster or hair dryer,” Yarbrough said. “Why should that have anything to do with me paying my bills?”