State representative working to gain support for smart meter legislation

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There's a move in the state legislature to get rid of fees that utilities charge to customers who want to keep their "old meters".

On Friday, News 10 reported Consumers Energy charges its customers a one-time fee of $69.39 to opt-out of having an advanced meter installed on their home.

There is a monthly fee of $9.72 after that to have a meter-reader come out.

This bill hasn't been formally introduced just yet and Representative Gary Glenn (R-Midland) is working to get support for it.

In addition to waiving the opt-out fees, the legislation would allow home owners to self-read their meter by just taking a picture of it and sending it in.

The utility could check the meter quarterly to confirm they're not being misled.

Rep. Glenn tells News 10 the choice should be up to the home owner.

"As long as those utilities are a state privilege monopoly given the right exclusively to deliver electricity, then we are going to protect homeowners from that kind of monopoly policy,” said Rep. Glenn. “Trying to force certain technology on homeowners against their will or if they refuse to have it installed, charge them.

Consumers Energy sent this written statement to News 10 Tuesday afternoon.

“Consumers Energy believes the present advanced meter technology program and oversight by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) have led to an important and safe technology change for energy customers across Michigan. We provide the option of a non-communicating meter to those customers who choose not to take the upgraded meter technology. However, the upgraded meter technology – which follows national testing for accuracy and safety – provides customers with benefits including: accurate bills; insights into their energy usage; billing and rate options and ways to help manage their overall energy use. In 2015, according to the U.S. energy information administration, there were about 64.7 million advanced meter installations in the U.S.

Once the legislation is formally introduced the Michigan Energy Policy Committee, which Rep. Glenn is the chair of, will hold a public hearing to listen to your concerns.

Last year Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a legal opinion that utilities don't have the authority to charge "opt-out" fees.

It was dismissed by the state Public Service Commission which oversees utilities.

News 10 will let you know what happens with the bill.