DTE threatens to shut off power to homes without smart meters

COLUMBIAVILLE (WJRT) (9/12/2017) - DTE Energy is threatening to shut off power to Dorothy Traver's home and dozens of others on Monday.

Dorothy Traver of Columbiaville facing having her electricity shut off by DTE Energy because she won't allow the utility to replace this analog meter with a new smart meter.

Not because they haven't paid their bills, but because they won't allow a smart meter to be installed on their homes.

Millions of the smart meters have been installed across Michigan over the past decade. Utility companies say they are good for consumers, because they provide more detailed usage information and eliminate the need for meter readers.

But some people maintain that the smart meters' risks outweigh the benefits.

"Yes, I got a notice last week that on the 18th of this month that it would be turned off because they say it's a hazard to me and my family and my neighbors," Traver said.

But she believes switching from an analog meter to a smart meter is the real danger.

"I'm a healthy person and I want to stay healthy," Traver said. "I don't want to have any health issues."

Fellow Columbiaville resident Brock Millard has been taking his issues with smart meters all the way to the State Capitol and lawmakers. Currently, there is a bill in committee that may address concerns.

"We're hearing that this is very complicated issue. It's not something that's fleshed out, if you will, in moments," Millard said. "It's taking years, so I would not expect the process to be changed in a few moments."

There is real concern about the cost. There have been cases where energy bills have skyrocketed following the switch from analog to smart meters.

DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris said the smart meters are more accurate than the old analog meters, which in some cases underestimated the amount of electric usage in years past.

Both Consumers Energy and DTE are allowing their customers to opt out of having a smart meter installed. For DTE customers, opting out comes with an additional cost added to each monthly bill, Berris said.

DTE has about 20,000 more smart meters to install around Michigan, which the company hopes to complete by the end of this year.

"Just to choose, it's simply a choice, and if my neighbor wants a smart meter, I'm certainly fine with that," Millard said. "Just allow me not to have one."

Traver and Millard were not aware of their ability to opt out of the smart meter program on Tuesday. She felt pigeonholed to make a difficult choice in the next few days: try to install a solar energy system to go off the electric grid or go without electricity entirely.

"If that's what it's got to be, that's what it's got to be," she said of potentially turning off her electricity. "Somebody's got to take a stand."

(This story was updated on Sept. 13 to correct the fact that DTE Energy customers can opt out of receiving a smart meter for an additional monthly cost.)

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