House bill trying to allow smart meter choice for no cost

Some Consumers Energy customers aren't happy with new smart meters. People like Michelle Sabin say they feel like their energy bills have gone up since getting them.

"We haven't gotten our February bill yet, so I can't wait," Sabin says anxiously. "We've had our heat off cause it's been so nice, but I'm not excited to see what that bill looks like."

Sabin claims her bill has climbed by more than $50 since switching to a smart meter.

"Our first bill from having the new meter is $210.81."

Homeowners have the option to stick with older meters, but it's expensive. Consumers Energy and DTE charge a one-time fee of roughly $70 and around $10 a month after that. A bill in the state house would ban those fees.

"Whether thy want a smart meter or not, I don't think it should be forced on them," explains rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), "and I think homeowners should be able to make that decision for themselves."

Barrett says he feels like it's a homeowners right to make that choice, and not be penalized with additional fees. But Consumers says those fees cover the costs of going to check the meters manually.

"There are definitely costs for people asking that we continue to send our workers in vehicles around neighborhoods, through yards to look at meters instead of having the meters send us a one text-type message a day," claims Dennis McKee of Consumers Energy. "If we don't charge those customers the opt out fees, then the rest of our customers will pay for those."

Consumers Energy is sending the head of its smart energy program to testify at the house energy committee hearing.

The state is urging self-reporting as a way to combat the costs that would be incurred on customers if the fee is waived. That means taking pictures and sending them as a text message or submitting it online.

Then they say Consumers Energy can audit those numbers whenever, if they feel like it might be necessary.

For more stories on Consumers' smart meters you can click here .