DTE Energy officials combat Smart Meter rumors

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Area residents sounded off on complaints about why the new DTE Energy Smart Meters aren’t so superior to their analog counterparts at a study session March 20.

During a City Council special meeting at City Hall, dozens of attendees spoke up to DTE Energy officials in response to their description of Smart Meters.

The meters, also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, are digital blue-faced meters that are the future replacement of natural gas and electrical meters. The AMI project plans to replace 2.6 million electric meters, modify 1.3 million natural gas meters with a remote-reading module. The full conversion will occur in phases in the eight- to 10-year range, according to DTE officials.

There is also an opt-out program for those who do want the meters, even though the details have not been fully formed, Bob Zuckakis, program manager for the AMI installation, said.

Zuckakis presented a slide presentation on the benefits of going digital, also addressing pre-written concerns from citizens who are against the meter for health issues and privacy reasons.

Zuckakis said DTE stands behind its product and the positives outweigh the perceived negatives.

“One of the biggest advantages of the system is its ability on outages,” he said. “The meters will tell us when they’ve lost power. It will send a message to us,” he said.

He added that DTE has installed about 700,000 Smart Meters primarily in Oakland County. A test pilot was done in Grosse Ile in 2008.

Nationally about 65 million meters will be installed by the end of 2015. There are more than 30 million meters installed in Europe.

Mayor Dan Paletko asked Zuckakis if there are any Smart Meters installed in Dearborn Heights and if the opt-out program was a feasible one.

Zuckakis said there are no meters in Dearborn Heights but there are plans to move them in the city.

“It is not going to be Dearborn Heights in just one swoop,” he said. “It won’t be just the pocket of Dearborn Heights, probably Dearborn and we will go to the edge of Detroit.”

In a nearly full house, members of the public spoke for almost two hours on their thoughts of the new meters, some with a main message of having a moratorium on the Smart Meters.

Shelby Township resident John Holton, who has passed out fliers of anti-Smart Meter literature to area city officials, said he recently attended a Livonia City Council meeting to raise awareness about the negative effects of the meters.

DTE representatives said there are no health risks, Holton said. He said that there is potential damage that can be done to a young girl’s eggs in her formative years through adulthood.

“It can be affected by WIFI, RF or any of these tech phones or three-way frequencies,” he said.

Crestwood Board of Education president Donna Ancinec said the session was enlightening and as an educator she is concerned about the future effects of the Smart Meters.

“I feel that the risks outweigh the benefits,” Ancinec said. “I don’t think there is enough statistical information regarding health hazards and if one person would become fatally ill because of this we need to hold off on doing anything until we know that they are safe.”

She added that Zuckakis addressed health concerns during his presentation.

“They are going to put these meters on schools where we’ve got our children,” she said. “I think City Council needs to address the issue further.”

The next City Council meeting is at 8 p.m. March 27 at City Hall.

For more information on the DTE Smart meters go to www.dteenergy.com.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)