Are utility companies being honest when they tell their customers that they will not be charged for the new meters?
We think not. Part of the cost (about half we think) of the new meters comes from a federal subsidy which we all pay for in our taxes. But the utilities also have an Order from the Michigan Public Service Commission that assures them of being able to recover any remaining costs by charging them to utility customers.
But that’s not the half of it. Where these new meters have been installed for some years now in California utility customers are complaining that their monthly electric bills have doubled or even tripled when they have not changed their lifestyle at all. And we are starting to see reports of this kind here in Michigan with regard to the Itron meters that DTE has been installing. Such comments can be found in the publicly posted comments on the MPSC website under Case U-17000.
And there is another concern that is now surfacing. With this digital technology in the meters, combined with the ability of the utility to send radio commands to the meter, how do we in fact know that the utility will not be able to manipulate the meter to show whatever usage they want it to show? Too far fetched? Maybe – but lets keep a close eye on the situation.
Finally, we are seeing reports that with the new remote turn-off capability, people’s electric service is being turned off with no prior notice. In some cases this has been because a bill was a few days overdue. In other cases service was turned off for no apparent reason at all – and the homeowner had to argue with the utility for many days to get it turned back on. And these things are happening in the middle of the winter and in households where there are elderly or otherwise vulnerable people. How do we measure the cost of that?
We believe this entire smart meter program, far from being a benefit to us as utility customers, is going to wind up costing us all a great deal of money.