Representative Challenges Smart Meter Security, Privacy Rights

Michigan Representative Gary Glenn, Republican, is pushing legislation to strengthen privacy protections by prohibiting utilities from selling, renting or sharing information generated by smart meters. The legislation also requires a utility to notify a customer in writing before a smart meter is installed and says such a notice must describe how a smart meter functions and transmits data. The notice must also explain how a customer can opt out of receiving a smart meter and keep an older, traditional meter.

“I think this is a simple philosophical question as to private property rights and privacy,” Glenn said Tuesday, testifying before the House Energy Policy Committee, which he chairs.

Representatives from two of Michigan’s largest utility companies, DTE-Energy and Consumers Energy, have challenged concerns raised by Glenn and others that smart meters put customer privacy at risk, saying policies protecting customer data are already in place.

Steven Kurmas, Vice Chairmen of DTE, stated “DTE-Energy firmly believes that any energy usage data belongs to the customer, and we strongly support the state and federal regulations that restrict the selling, renting or sharing of this data. He added that smart meters have “”improved the privacy of customers because we no longer send an employee into their homes and backyard.”

Almost 6.5 million Consumers Energy customers – and more than 3.1 million DTE customers – have smart meters. Some residents have voiced concerns that radio frequency power emitted by smart meters have caused health problems, and have paid to opt out of the smart meters and keep their old meters in place. Utility officials, however, say the devices are safe and emit less power than other household items, such as a wireless internet signal or a cell phone.