DTE Energy is disconnecting customers who refuse to have their old analog electric meters replaced with smart meters. The smart meters use a radio frequency transmission to report real-time electricity use by the customer.
Bob Sitkauskas is in charge of DTE's advanced metering program. He says customers can still opt out of the advanced metering program, but keeping the old meter is out of the question.
"We're still going to replace the meter with one of our advanced meters," says Sitkauskas. "But we will shut the radio off for that (opt-out) customer."
Customers who want to opt out will be charged a one-time fee of $67 .20, and after that, a $9.80 monthly fee to compensate DTE for the workers who will go to the houses in person to read the meters.
Sitkauskas says the old analog meters are no longer being manufactured, and over time, it will not be possible to replace or service them. He says all 3.5 million of DTE's individual customer meters will be on smart meters by the end of this year.
Some people believe the meters, whether the radio frequency transmission is disabled or not, emit a harmful electromagnetic field. They call it "dirty electricity." Some of these people complain of headaches, skin problems, cognitive issues, and other disorders because of emissions from the meters.
Sitkauskas says the meters are safe, and the radio frequency used is much lower than that used by cell phones and microwave ovens. He says they have many benefits -- such as DTE being able to automatically determine if power is out at individual homes.
DTE can also shut off electricity temporarily at the customer's request, which was the case recently in metro Detroit when many people's homes flooded during a storm, says Sitkauskas, and they wanted the electricity off so it was safe to go down in the basement.
Smart meters also allow DTE to better manage electricity demand, by offering customers time-of-day pricing. The smart meter tells DTE when electricity is being used, so customers can be offered an incentive to use less electricity during times of peak demand.