Frequently Asked Questions

How is electricity used?

The below graph illustrates how much of the total electricity generated is used by the different sectors of the market and provides a detailed breakout of electricity usages for residential customers.

How is electricity used?


Will I get a smart meter?

Michigan's utilities are at different stages of providing smart meters to customers. Some utilities are conducting pilot programs - testing the smart meters in specific areas, while some are exploring the different technologies to determine which one will provide added value in their service territory. Contact your utility provider regarding their plans for installing smart meters.
Contact your utility.

Information on Detroit Edison's and Consumers Energy's smart grid programs is available on their websites.


Are smart meters accurate?

Yes. To date there have been several studies performed establishing that smart meters are accurate. Utilities also conduct pilot programs in their local service areas to ensure that the meters are accurate prior to full deployment.

These studies were performed by independent parties at the request of the Texas and / or California Public Utility Commission.
Evaluation of Advanced Metering System (AMS) Deployed in Texas


How does a smart meter differ from my existing meter?

Specific benefits will be determined by what technology your utility is deploying. Generally, smart meters will provide initial benefits that include:

  1. Remote meter reading, which eliminates the need for someone to go on to your property to read your meter and eliminates estimated bills
  2. Outage notification, which automatically notifies the utility of an outage, helping to pinpoint exactly where the problem is and making it possible to restore electricity more quickly.

Smart meters will also help your utility run more efficiently by providing them with a more accurate picture of energy usage, which they can use to help them anticipate consumers' electricity needs throughout the day.  Just as the change from analog to digital TV signals in 2009 set the stage for technological improvements, the change from traditional (analog) meters to digital smart meters will allow utilities to increase reliability and service quality to their customers.


What is demand response?

In order to ensure reliable electricity, demand and supply on the electric grid need to be in balance at all times. Demand response can play a key role in this. When residential, commercial, and/or industrial customers enroll in this program, they either limit electricity usage in response to a request by the utility or adjust their electricity usage in response to price signals.

By lowering the peak demand for electricity, the need for electric system operators to purchase additional electricity at higher prices to cover those high usage periods is immediately avoided. Reliability is increased, as blackouts may be avoided by controlling demand during times when electrical supply is limited. Longer range benefits include avoiding the cost of building and/or expanding existing electric plants by decreasing the maximum amount of electricity needed to meet demand at any given time. Demand response programs use rates, incentives and other strategies to encourage customer participation.


Will a smart meter cost me more?

Consumer utility rates may increase initially, but over the long run smart grid improvements may prove to keep the cost of electricity down.


Will my utility control my electricity usage?

No, receiving a smart meter does not mean that your utility will control your electricity use. Smart meters do improve your utility's ability to offer voluntary programs that lower a customer's electricity use during times when overall demand for electricity is the highest. However, customers choose whether or not they wish to enroll in these programs.


Are the radio frequency (RF) communications used by the smart meters safe?

The scientific and medical evidence to date suggests that exposure to RF fields does not cause adverse health effects, provided that exposure is within the safety guidelines. The Unites States federal government and the international health community, including the World Health Organization, plus numerous independent studies have deemed low-level radio frequency to be completely safe. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits for radio transmitters of all types, including smart meters. These limits also include a prudent margin of safety. Even so, smart meters operate far below the limit.

The following reports provide additional information on radio frequency:
Radio-Frequency Exposure Levels from Smart Meters
Electromagnetic fields and public health
Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Smart Meters
Radio Frequency Safety


Will my energy use information be secure and will it remain confidential?

Customer energy usage information confidentiality and security is, and has been, a priority for customers, utility companies, and the Public Service Commission long before the introduction of smart grid technology. This priority will continue with the introduction of smart grid technologies. As utilities move forward with smart grid technologies such as smart metering, safeguards and countermeasures (controls) are carefully designed into systems and processes to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Industry standards and guidelines such as those recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology are routinely used during technology deployments. Internal utility policies based on recognized industry standards ensure that customer energy use information remains secure and confidential.


How much will it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

The cost to charge an electric vehicle depends on the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) that your utility charges for electricity and how depleted your car's battery is.

Currently there are several utilities in Michigan offering incentives and/or special pricing programs for customers who purchase electric vehicles. Contact your utility to find out additional information.

For a detailed look at the costs associated with an electric vehicle as compared to vehicles using traditional fuels like gasoline or diesel, check out this link:  electric car calculator.


Does my utility offer any incentives or special pricing programs for electric vehicles?

Each utility is different. Start by contacting your utility and notifying them of your interest. Find your utility.


What are smart appliances? 

Smart appliances include thermostats, clothes washers, dryers, microwaves, hot water heaters, refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, etc. that have the ability to interface with your smart meter and respond to price signals. 


Can a smart appliance reduce my electricity bill?

Smart appliances can reduce your electricity bill if: you have a smart meter, are enrolled in a dynamic pricing program, and the appliance is programmed to run at times when there is lower demand for electricity - with dynamic pricing programs electricity is cheaper at times when there is lower demand. There may be other energy efficiency options built in to your specific appliance that will also reduce your electricity bill.


Can a smart appliance work in my home?

Your home would need to have a smart meter installed and your utility would need to offer a dynamic pricing program for you to utilize all of the "smart" features of your appliances.  Contact your utility company to inquire when a smart meter will become available, and what the long range plans are for dynamic pricing.  Find your utility.


What is a dynamic pricing plan?

A dynamic pricing plan works with a smart meter. Customers enrolled with these plans are sent price signals through in-home displays, or the internet, for example, to encourage them to shift their electric use away from peak hours when there is the highest demand and electricity more expensive. Remember long distance phone plans that charged more for calls made during the day than those made in the evening, same idea!


Where can I get a Smart Appliance?

Many major appliance stores carry smart appliances made by a variety of manufacturers including: LG, General Electric (GE), Samsung, Whirlpool and others.  The technology is advancing, so expect to see more models of smart appliances offered by various manufacturers.