MUSKEGON, MI – For those who believe the new electrical smart meters are a health, safety and security issue or part of a world-wide environmental conspiracy, Consumers Energy will let you opt out of the program.

But staying with or going back to old analog-style meters that need to be read monthly by a company employee will be costly for customers who opt out of the smart meter program.

The Michigan Public Service Commission issued an order Friday, June 28 setting the fees that Consumers Energy can charge customers not wanting to participate in the smart meter program or wanting an existing smart meter removed for more traditional technology.

The opt-out program and associated charges will have an immediate effect on West Michigan customers already in smart meter-installed neighborhoods or scheduled for the service upgrade. But by 2019, Consumers Energy’s entire 1.8 million electrical meters in residential homes and small businesses are planned to have smart meter technology.

For those requesting to opt out prior to installation, there will be a one-time charge of $69.39 and for those already with a new smart meter but want it removed the one-time cost will be $123.91. For all of those in the opt-out program using traditional meters that need monthly reading by Consumers Energy employees, the additional charge will be $9.72 a month, according to the MPSC order.

“Consumers Energy soon will be sending notifications to customers who have expressed interest in the manual meter reading program,” said Dennis McKee, communications director for Consumers Energy’s smart energy program. “Customers will have at least 60 days following that notification to determine whether or not they wish to enroll.”

The additional opt-out charges are justified in covering the additional cost of the company to provide the special equipment and service, according to the MPSC ruling.

Consumers Energy began installing smart meters statewide with customers in Muskegon County late last summer. As of today, 90,000 installations have been completed in Muskegon, Oceana, Ottawa and Allegan counties on the west side of the state, McKee said of a process that takes about 10 minutes with customers being informed of the meter switch prior to installation.

Smart meters are digital devices that have two-way communication capabilities with Consumers Energy electrical operations staff. The digital meters provide an upgrade for the new “smart grid” that is being rolled out across the nation. Some 40 million smart meters serving 315 million people have already been installed nationwide.

Critics of the smart meters believe the new devices cause radio frequencies that are harmful to human health and the devices can be used to invade personal privacy within homes and create security problems. Consumers Energy and the public utility industry dispute those claims and state that the devices are safe and create no privacy or security issues.

At a public forum in Muskegon in February sponsored by the Michigan Stop Smart Meters organization, critics of the new technology claimed they are part of what they called “Agenda 21” -- a radical, international environmental agenda for the 21st Century, organization President David Sheldon said at the forum.

Consumers Energy claims the smart meters will provide the company and its customers with better billing, improved outage responses and the future ability for customers to manage their energy uses through a website.

Consumers Energy customers wanting more information on the smart meter program can contact the company at (888) 862-2199 or through the company’s website at
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