TroyJune 27, 2012
Council will question whether smart meters are a dumb deal
By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer
While the issue of smart meters, or advanced meters, has been discussed at length in the public forum in neighboring cities and municipalities for a number of months, the Troy City Council had not discussed the issue at the table — until now.
However the point may be moot, as DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons said DTE is 97 percent done installing the advanced meters in Troy.
Mayor Janice Daniels had placed the item on the agenda under the council referral portion of the June 18 meeting, as the Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to opt out of the program and asked council for a resolution in support of opting out of the program.
That resolution, dated June 11, states that because there has been concern by electric customers about smart meters being overly intrusive and allegations the meters are dangerous to health, and because there is no proof that implementation of the meters would result in an economic benefit to customers, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners supports people’s ability to opt out of the smart meter program.
“I’m not ready to move on this resolution tonight,” Mayor Pro Tem Maureen McGinnis said.
Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm told the council that the Michigan Public Service Commission was investigating the deployment of the smart meters by regulated electric utilities and expected to release findings at the end of the month.
Bluhm noted that the time for public comment to the Public Service Commission has passed. She said she will prepare options for the council to consider at the next scheduled council meeting, July 9.
According to DTE Energy officials, the new radio frequency transmitters are currently being installed behind the existing gas meter faces and use low-power radio transmissions to send usage information to DTE offices and field crews.
The meters create an efficient meter reading process and will help pinpoint outages, creating quicker response times, officials say. As part of an $83.8 million grant, DTE Energy plans to install 600,000 smart meters in Southeast Michigan.
The program provides digital measurements of energy usage, allows the energy provider to instantly detect power outages and remotely turn power on or off, and saves DTE money from the enhanced efficiency, among a host of other things, DTE officials said.
Last winter, Michael Palchesko, regional manager for DTE Energy, said the new meters will also allow customers who wish to enroll in DTE’s optional time-of-day electric rate program a chance to monitor their usage and possibly save money on their bills. Under the time-of-day electric rate program, electricity used off-peak — from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. — is billed at a discount.
Earlier this month, before the Shelby Township Board of Trustees, DTE Energy spokesman Robert Sitkauskas explained that the smart meters would eliminate manual meter reading.
“We will also eliminate virtually all estimated reads, and it eliminates the need for physical access to your site,” he said. “We do not have an opt-out program at this time,” Sitkauskas said. “The current meters are a DTE Energy asset, and we are planning to replace them. However we are willing to listen any customer’s health and safety concerns.”
He said the smart meters have also been installed in Grosse Ile, Harsens Island, Milford, Detroit and Pontiac.
According to DTE, other items that use radio frequency signals include baby monitors, cellphones, garage door openers, TV remotes, wireless laptops and remote car starters, and he said there are no known health hazards from this type of device.
Shelby Township residents John and Pauline Holeton spoke during the public comment portion of the Troy City Council meeting June 18.
“We didn’t ask for this (smart meters),” he said. “We have the right to protect ourselves. DTE repeatedly deceived us. …You will have no privacy.”
Pauline Holeton said that she and her husband have been to 32 cities and townships to voice opposition to the smart meters.
“They’re (DTE) supposed to be asking us if we want this,” she said. She said installation of smart meters is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights and poses health risks.
Nearby communities have taken varied action on the meters. Rochester, Shelby Township and Southfield have passed resolutions asking the Public Service Commission to thoroughly analyze the meters, while Rochester Hills adopted a moratorium.
Bluhm explained that the Public Service Commission staff report would likely generate an order that customers, utility companies or the state attorney general could then appeal.
If an opt-out were allowed, customers with the devices could in effect say “thanks but no thanks,” and not use the device, Bluhm said.
Staff writers Brad Bates, Mary Beth Almond, Cortney Casey and Linda Shepard contributed to this report.
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