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Pros and cons of smart meters

HOLLAND, MI (WZZM) - Next month Consumers Energy will start installing "smart meters" in thousands of homes in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

Instead of sending an employee out to read your residential electric meter, the smart meters use cell phone technology to send a daily readout to the utility.

Consumers Energy says it will save customers money.

"We think there are great benefits to our customers," says Consumers Energy spokesman Roger C. Morgenstern. "We actually show over the 20 year life of the meter there will be a 40 million dollar benefit to our customers in terms of energy savings."

Opponents at a presentation at Herrick District Library in Holland Monday night say there is no evidence the meters conserve electricity or save money.

"There are no studies that show people use significantly less energy because they have a smart meter installed," says David Sheldon, president of Michigan Stop Smart Meters.

Opponents also say the meters are an invasion of privacy because they can tell what appliances in a home are running, at what time and for how long.

"In the past, what time you got up in the morning, if you were at home or not, when you are on vacation; these kinds of things were not generally public information," says Sheldon, "Now they will be."

"Our customers have entrusted us with their private energy information for 125 years," says Morgenstern. "That's going to continue with smart meters."

Because the smart meters transmit data using cell phone technology, opponents also say they are a health risk.

"Cellular microwave technology is a possible carcinogen," says Diana Ostermann of Michigan Stop Smart Meters. "Not being able to sleep is one of the first symptoms of smart meters. And it's damaging to both sperm and eggs in the ovary."

"The Public Service Commission issued a report at the end of June that said they've studied all available data and they feel the health risks are insignificant," says Morgenstern. "We truly believe these meters are safe and secure and do not pose a health risk."

Consumers Energy says they eventually expect to have nearly 2 million smart meters transmitting data in Michigan.

"We are trying, at the very least, to get opt outs," says Sheldon. "The opt out is where an individual can say, 'I don't want a smart meter at my house'."

The Consumers Energy web site has information for customers who want to opt out.

The Michigan Stop Smart Meters web site gives more reasons for their opposition.


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