Improved service is now available to nearly 500,000 Consumers Energy customers who have received new electric meters capable of sending text-type messages to the company through the cellular telephone network.
The new meters eliminate the need for estimated meter reads, provide online access to energy use information and will assist with power outage restoration, beginning in 2016.
"These upgraded meters are helping us to be more efficient and to control our costs better. Providing our residential and business customers with secure online access to their energy use information will help those who are interested to track their energy usage more closely and predict what their bills will be before they arrive," said Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy's vice president and chief customer officer. "While we're proud to offer benefits to the first 500,000 customers to get the upgraded meters, we are at about 20 percent of our project goal, which we plan to achieve by the end of 2017."
Businesses in the Grand Rapids area have been the first to see their larger, business-size meters upgraded with communication technology. Throughout the state, business meter upgrades will follow residential upgrades in each region.
"Businesses that receive these meters will be able to access a new web portal this fall that will provide online access to energy use data that could help them to better manage their energy usage," Rochow said. "Advanced meter technology will also enable us to broaden future opportunities to business customers who can consider the benefits of time-of-use pricing or other energy pricing options that can help them tailor their electrical equipment needs around money-saving options. We're working hard to get them the tools they need as quick as we can."
Consumers Energy next year also will launch its enhanced outage management system, using outage notifications from the new meters to more effectively respond during storms and other power outages, and to more efficiently coordinate repair efforts. Customers will also be able to choose their own billing dates.
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Electric meters have been upgraded in parts of Allegan, Barry, Grand Traverse, Ionia, Kalkaska, Kent, Leelanau, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties.
Consumers Energy will begin upgrading electric meters by the middle of this summer in the Flint, Kalamazoo and Boyne City regions. The Battle Creek, Cadillac, Jackson, Ludington, Saginaw and Tawas regions are scheduled for meter upgrades in 2016, while the Clare, Lansing and Midland areas will get meter upgrades in 2017.
Notifications of meter upgrades will arrive in the form of large blue information postcards at homes about 30 days before the upgrades. Residents don't need to be home for the replacement, which takes only a few minutes, but they can call to make appointments if they choose. Businesses will be contacted in advance through mailings, calls or outreach meetings, depending on their size and the complexity of their electric service.
Households and businesses do have the option to continue using older meter technology and enroll in the manual meter reading program at a cost of $9.72 per month and a one-time cost of $69.39 to maintain the systems and infrastructure to support continued use of older meters.
The program will upgrade 1.8 million electric meters along with 600,000 natural gas meters for those who get both electric and natural gas service from Consumers Energy. Learn more online at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/smartenergy.
Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.