In a report filed Friday with the Michigan Public Service Commission, DTE Energy said it would allow an "opt-out" option on the controversial smart meters that are being installed many communities in Michigan.
A customer would pay an additional cost for opting out, the report stated.
The report was in response to the MPSC's investigation into the meters that DTE and other regulated electric utilities are installing across the state.
DTE is installing 600,000 smart meters, also known as AMI meters, in southeast Michigan as part of an $83.8 million grant. Smart meters measure and record electricity usage with digital technology instead of the traditional gears and dials. The technology involves the use of radio frequency waves to transmit data to DTE.
In Dearborn, the issue came before City Council in July 2011 when a group opposing the meters spoke at a council meeting. The council chose not to file a resolution on the matter.
Councils in multiple other Michigan communities, however, did approve resolutions urging the MPSC to investigate their concerns about safety and privacy of the meters. In turn, the MPSC asked the utilities to provide them with information on safety and privacy issues related to the smart meters; the MPSC also asked about the feasibility of an opt-out option.
DTE's report to the MPSC is 98 pages; it can be read here in a file attached to this story.
"The overwhelming majority of our customers fully support AMI," the report states. "However, given the small group of concerned customers, Edison is developing an opt-out program."
Details about the opt-out program have not been fully developed, according to DTE. The report hinted that there would be costs for opting out and that those customers who choose not to have a smart meter would not benefit from the online monitoring of energy consumuption and other programs that smart meter customer would benefit from.
The report reads as follows:
"Edison’s major tenets of an opt-out program must consider: monthly meter reading costs, special field visit costs (which AMI could have eliminated), distribution management voltage detection, outage operations, customer billing options where an interval meter read is required, customer service billing system modifications to delineate the opt out customer from all AMI related benefits.
"The Company should be made whole for all incremental costs, the electing customers should bear the costs, and the opt out charges should be based on costs consistent with the provisions of PA 286, M.C.L. 460.6.
"The opt-out program shall not operate in a manner that contradicts or unreasonably interferes with the AMI benefits enjoyed by all other customers or negatively affect the reliability or operation of the electric system.
"Opt-out decisions must be initiated and made by individual customers and not by broader interest groups or municipalities on their behalf. Opting out will eliminate several individual customer benefits and conveniences and will subject the customer to additional charges, so permitting third party's to make this selection is inappropriate."
The report was clear in declaring that a customer choosing to opt out of the smart meter program "will be responsible for all costs associated with that choice and will not be absorbed by other customers accepting AMI smart meters."