New meters will ‘encourage’ Plymouth residents to focus on electricity conservation
Jun 4, 2013 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Be prepared to pay more for energy with controversial new ‘smart’ meters
The meters will allow for a time-of-use price scale allowing DTE to charge a higher rate for service during high-demand period. DTE has said that by billing customers by the time of day power is used, consumers will be encouraged to adjust their usage habits to be more responsive to “market pricing.” There are usually three rate structures, Peak, Mid-Peak and Off-Peak, with the Peak rate being double the Off-Peak rate.
How smart exactly are the new “Smart Meters” DTE is proposing to install in Plymouth Community homes?
That question has multiple answers depending on the source.
DTE Energy says the meters are cost efficient and “increase the customer’s energy efficiency.” The meters provide an automatic real-time reading of the amount of energy used in the home or business utilizing a wireless radio frequency transmission.
Many residents claim the meters invade their privacy, provide too much information to the energy company and potentially other entities and could be a health hazard due to the electro- magnetic field used in the transmissions from homes to the DTE billing offices. Critics also suggest that the ability of DTE to turn the power off or on remotely through the meter could prove problematic and that the meters can be “hacked” and controlled by an entity other than DTE. Critics also suggest that DTE could arbitrarily limit the amount of power to users and implement power blackouts.
The meters also allow for a time-of-use price scale allowing DTE to charge a higher rate for service during high-demand period.
Until this month, residents had no option but to accept the installation of the new meters. In April, however, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a statement saying that residents should be allowed to keep their older, analog meters. He also said that the amount DTE proposed as the “opt out” fee was not appropriate and suggested a lower rate. The Michigan Public Service Commission ruled that DET can charge customers who want to keep their analog units a one-time fee of $67 and a monthly cost of $9.80.
The new “smart meters” will still be installed in all homes served by DTE, however, but those who opt-out of the Smart Currents program will have the radio-trans- mission capability of the new meter disabled, according to DTE.
The fees were determined as the charges manual meter reading that would otherwise be avoided by use of the smart meter.
Critics have claimed that DTE is not licensed to install a “broad- casting” device in homes and suggest that residents of apartments and condominiums will have a much higher exposure to radio frequency pollution with multiple smart meters placed in one central location.
Supporters of the meters say the impact is no more and probably less than cell-phone transmissions and wi-fi installations.
Plymouth resident Bruce Hartdegen has been a vocal critic of the meters and has spoken at meetings of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees. In April of 2012, he told the board members that more research was needed the health concerns surrounding the meters. He suggested then that not enough information was being provided to the public regarding the health impact of the meters.
At that meeting, Plymouth Township officials rejected a proposed resolution to impose a moratorium on the installation of the new meters until further research could be completed.
Unlike conventional electric meters, smart meters, often referred to as time-of-use meters, enable two-way radio communication between the meter and the central system. The advantage claimed is the time of-use pricing versus flat rate pricing. DTE has said that by billing customers by the time of day power is used, consumers will be encouraged to adjust their usage habits to be more responsive to “market pricing.” There are usually three rate structures, Peak, Mid-Peak and Off-Peak, with the Peak rate being double the Off-Peak rate. DTE has already installed more than a million of the smart meters and plans to have about 3.6 million installed during the next several years. A spokesperson said that fewer than 1 percent of DTE customers have inquired about opting out of the meters. The responsibility for exercising the opt-out option rests solely with the consumer, a spokesperson said. The smart meter program is currently being implemented and is under way in the Plymouth community.
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