Michigan homeowners may be able to reject 'smart meters' at no charge under a bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland.
The bill will be the subject of a public hearing this Tuesday in the House Energy Policy Committee, which Glenn chairs, and again on March 7.
“Republicans and Democrats alike agree it’s all about individual freedom of choice and homeowners’ private property rights,” Glenn said. Among the 17 co-sponsors are four Democrats, including Rep. Rose Mary Robinson of Detroit.
“Homeowners should have the ultimate authority to decide what technology is installed in their homes – not utilities whose government-protected monopoly prevents homeowners from choosing a competing electricity provider," Glenn continued.
The bill would support Attorney General Bill Schuette’s court brief stating utility officials have no authority to charge fees to customers who wish to opt out of advanced metering technology such as the smart meters. The fees were allowed by the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Consumers Energy and DTE Energy charge residents nearly $70 initially and nearly $10 a month afterwards to opt out of programs involving advanced electricity meters installed outside of residential homes. The new meters are replacing older analog models.
Some reject the new technology, with reasons varying from cost to privacy concerns to property rights. Other concerns included the potential to track energy usage patterns to determine when homes are empty or how many people live at a particular address through data transmitted by smart meters.
“It’s a cyber-security concern,” Glenn said. “We live in a wired world. We need to safeguard homeowners’ privacy and private property rights so people have the option to limit these intrusions and threats to exposure of their private information.”
Glenn’s bill would ban utilities from charging homeowners fees if they don’t want smart meters as well as allowing customers to keep the older meters to self-read and report their energy usage to utilities on their own. That would reduce the need for utilities to send meter readers to homes or charge for those services.
Under the bill, customers who keep their old meters but decide not to self-read could be charged a monthly fee of no more than $5 and utilities would be forced to remove the technology from any home in which it has already been installed against the homeowner’s wishes.
“Homeowners didn’t have a say in this smart meter program, and under utility officials’ government-granted monopoly, homeowners aren’t free to shop around for a competing electricity provider that doesn’t require smart meters,” Glenn said.
“We hope to correct that situation and provide freedom of choice through this bipartisan legislation.”
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