BWL says making the switch to smart meters will improve overall service

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – The Lansing Board of Water and Light is getting ready to push out a plan they say will improve its services, save you money, and allow you to control how much energy you use.

The plan is to make the switch to smart meters for all 97,000 of its customers by the year 2020.

Utility companies across the country continue to roll out smart meters, but it’s causing a lot of controversy along the way.

Those against the devices say they can cause health problems, invade people’s privacy and puts customers and the electric grid at risk for hacking. BWL officials say it’ll do just the opposite.

During the Lansing City Council Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, BWL hoped to rid some of those concerns.

If you live in the green areas of this map, you can expect to see BWL crews in your area within the next couple of weeks installing the smart meters.

A device that BWL officials say is state of the art technology that will allow customers to manage their own energy usage, increase operational efficiency and reliability and improve overall service.

“To become the utility of the future, you have to give more options to your customers,” BWL General Manager Dick Peffley said. “Customers want to manage their energy usage; they want to know what’s running, when it’s running. They want to be able to pick their smart phone up and say hey, this is energy usage for my house, what did I leave on when I went on vacation…they can do all that now.”

He said the smart meters will also detect whether your power goes out if you are out of town. The meter will make BWL aware of the outage or issue, allowing the utility to restore it remotely.

“That’s a huge advantage for the customer,” Peffley said.

Peffley says the $31 million plan won’t cost customers a dime or affect rates. In fact, he says going smart could save you a buck or two.

Lansing resident Kathy Miles says it’s not worth the tradeoff.

“This can interfere with insulin pumps and pacemakers,” she said.  “I don’t really think this is just about the meters. This addresses the power grid, security, health.”

During public comment Monday night, Miles addressed several concerns surrounding smart meters and attributed some of the testimony she heard during the senate hearings on the devices.

“The fire chief of Oscoda Michigan said his house burned within 36 hours of having a smart meter installed,” she said. “Germany has banned smart meters from the entire country, Canada is removing them, in Michigan 23 cities have banned them.”

A woman working on the project said BWL officials have been working hard to make sure all the problems other utility companies have had, won’t happen here.

Peffley answered to some of the concerns Miles and other had.

“The smart meter has about the same output as a baby monitor and it’s not sitting beside your baby,” he said. “It’s on the outside of the house.”

When it comes to the potential for hacking, he said this: “Anything can probably be hacked but if they do…all they’re going to do is get how much energy you’re using. None of your personal information goes over that.”

But there’s some good news for those who don’t want to make the switch.

“If somebody says I don’t want a smart meter, the smart meter, module or card, we won’t install it,” Peffley said.

BWL plans to start installing meters this year in October. It’ll take about three years for the project to be completed.

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