Consumers Energy plans to install "smart meters" in homes and businesses across West Michigan.
GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) - Instead of sending a meter reader once a month, Consumers Energy will soon get information about a customer's electricity use wirelessly.
"Starting this August in West Michigan, we are going to be putting in 1.8 million electric smart meters in homes and businesses across the state of Michigan," says Roger Morgenstern of Consumers Energy.
Representatives from the utility company were in Grand Haven Tuesday night meeting with people concerned about smart meters because of cost, privacy and health risks.
"We think they are safe and provide a great value for the customer," Consumers' Tom O'Masta told the group.
The smart meters are like little cell phones that send text messages to the utility several times a day.
The customer and the company always know how much electricity is being used.
"It's nice to have that kind of information, but what are you going to do with it?" wondered Grand Haven resident Joe Ellis. "If you can't change your habits it's not going to make any difference."
"They don't have to send someone out to read the meter," pointed out Grand Haven resident James Varduin. "It cuts their labor. It's a savings only for the power company."
Representatives from the utility say they are going to start charging more for electricity used during peak periods of demand. Customers can save money by adjusting consumption.
"You are going to pay 11 cents per kilowatt hour between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.," explains Morgenstern. "But maybe at 6 p.m. it's going to drop to seven cents per hour. You can make smarter decisions so you can use less electricity."
The company says there is no significant risk from radio or microwave radiation emitted by the wireless smart meters, but customers can opt out of the program.
They will be charged extra to cover the expense of installing, maintaining and reading a traditional analog meter.
The company may also ask for higher rates across the board to pay for the new technology.
"The cost of this program will be part of the rates you and I pay every month," explained Morgenstern.