Letter: Don’t undercut ‘smart’ meters

For the last four years, we at Consumers Energy have been providing our customers a powerful new tool to help them follow, manage and reduce their energy use. We have installed 1.4 million new meters that let Michigan homes and businesses track how much energy they use hour by hour and open the door to new programs that give them even more control over how much energy they use.

These meters are part of an effort we refer to as “smart energy,” and for good reason. This new technology lets customers look more closely at their energy use and make better and better decisions. Even so, we know upgraded meters aren’t for everyone. If someone doesn’t want a meter, they can choose to opt out.

That’s why it’s disappointing to see new legislation in Lansing that would undercut the smart energy programs that we and other energy providers have started in our state. It ignores the success of smart energy programs and would shift costs to everyone in reaction to the worries of a small group.

Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, has offered a bill that would let customers avoid paying the cost of meter readers if they reject the technology. Everyone else — over 99 percent of customers who are using meters — would then pay that cost. It offers other requirements that would duplicate to data privacy and security policies already in place and raises serious safety concerns

This approach would turn back decades of providing greater accuracy of meter measurement and set back our efforts to build a smarter, more reliable energy infrastructure. Consequently, it doesn’t do the public any good.

Let’s put in perspective just one way that new meters can benefit customers. Right now, we’re signing up customers for new programs that give them the ability to reduce their energy use and expenses on the hottest summer days. Our new Peak Power Savers program allows customers to choose to briefly cycle off their air conditioners or benefit from lower rates if they shift their energy use to certain times of day.

Programs like Peak Power Savers, however, are available only to people who have the newest meter technology. If Glenn’s legislation became law, it would lead more people away from these benefits and force everyone else to pay more in the process.

We are on track to finish installing upgraded meters this year, so it’s a little late to start rewriting the rules for a smart energy effort that has been a success story. Michigan’s lawmakers just last year passed a comprehensive update of our state’s energy law. Let’s not start undermining policies that we know are working well.

Lisa DeLacy, Consumers Energy

executive director of smart energy