Consumers Energy steps up pace of Michigan smart meter rollout


In the US state of Michigan, public utility Consumers Energy has plans to install smart meters for electricity and natural gas customers in Kalamazoo County by mid-2015 as part of a 2.4 million statewide deployment by 2017, according to local media reports. 

Speaking to the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners, Dennis McKee, Smart Energy Program Communications Director at Consumers Energy, commented on the acceleration of the rollout: “Our high customer satisfaction and growing customer interest in the benefits of the new meters are moving us from our original plan of installations in West Michigan and then moving into the centre of the state, to an approach that will have us in multiple regions simultaneously around the state by mid-year 2015.

Mr Mckee added: “We are seeing excellent operational results with the new meters, enabling us to bring enhanced service to more of our customers sooner.”

Help with power outages

McKee said the new meters will also assist during outages after Consumers Energy launches its enhanced outage map in 2015. Customers can report outages with the current meters, but the new technology will allow the utility to see which areas have been affected by an outage when a storm hits.

Smart gas meters

The natural gas meters of customers in the Grand Rapids region who also receive Consumers Energy electric service will be the first to receive communication modules on their meters later this fall, which will work with their electric meters to give remote meter reads for natural gas service.

Managing customer engagement

Notifications of the meter technology upgrade will arrive in a large blue information postcard at the homes of Consumers Energy customers about 30 days before the switch, the utility confirms.

In response to privacy and health concerns raised by local action groups, the state public utility regulator Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has created an opt-out programme and fee structure.

Customers who opt-out of a smart meter installation will pay a one-time fee of US$69.39 and those wanting a smart meter removed and replaced with the old technology will be charged US$123.91.

For those in the opt-out programme, there is an additional cost of  US$9.72 a month to cover the cost of traditional meter reading services, according to the MPSC directive.

More than 260,000 west Michigan residents and small business owners have received upgraded meters since summer of 2012, according to McKee.