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Declining 'Smart Meter' Could Cost Utility Customers

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - DTE Energy is proposing a one-time $87 charge and $15 monthly fees for customers who don't want the new electronic meters that are being installed by utility.

"The charges reflect the cost associated with the formation of a new team of employees including meter readers who will be needed to service the opt-out customers," said DTE spokesman Scott Simons.

Simons said high-tech "smart meters" send information back to the utility automatically.

"What the advanced meters do is allow us to get true meter readings, essentially eliminating estimated bills, and the meters also allow us to quickly locate and reduce the length of power outages as well as remotely connect and disconnect service for faster response to our customers," he said, adding that the meters can also give consumers more information about how they use electricity.

Critics have raised privacy concerns, but Simons said they follow security standards, and the new meters protect against hacking.

The Michigan Public Service January asked staff to investigate all aspects of the meters and invited the public to comment. Then, last month, the commission recommended that utilities offer an opt-out.

Steve Kurmas, president and chief operating officer of DTE subsidiary Detroit Edison, has said the smart meters "are merely the next generation of utility technology."

So far, DTE has installed 825,000 electronic meters. The utility hopes to have over 1.2 million in place by the end of next year.

Consumers Energy also uses them.

- More about Smart Meters -

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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