Consumer Information

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

What is an AMI Meter?

An AMI meter is a new type of electric meter. It sends electronic meter readings to your utility automatically, virtually eliminating the need for on-site meter reading and estimated bills. Meaning your electric bills will be more accurate. It will also automatically notify your utility of an outage, helping to pinpoint exactly where the problem is and making it possible to restore your power more quickly. (Although, it is still recommended that you call your utility company when you experience an outage.)
Traditional Meter vs. Digital Smart Meter

Will an AMI meter save me money?

A smart meter itself won't save you money, but it provides the foundation for features that can. Additional items like energy monitors and computer software show how much energy you use at different times of the day, month, or year and can provide the information you need to help cut your electric bill. Smart meters will also help utilities run more efficiently by giving them a more accurate picture of their customers' energy use, which they can use in determining electricity needs throughout the day.

In the future…

In the future, AMI meters could enable features for consumers like personalized electricity plans that fit your lifestyle and energy use.  Perhaps smart phone apps will let you manage your home's energy use, control your thermostat, or maybe even retrieve your grocery list from your "smart" refrigerator.

Will I get an AMI meter?

Michigan's utilities are at different stages of providing smart meters to customers. Contact your utility company to inquire when an AMI meter will become available. Contact your utility.

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

See also: frequently asked questions.

Plug-in Electric Vehicles

What is a Plug-in Electric Vehicle?

Plug-in Electric Vehicle Charging Car

A plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) is any vehicle that literally plugs into an electrical outlet or station to charge its battery. There are three types of PEVs:

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

A BEV's only means of propulsion is its batteries. Once the vehicle's batteries are depleted, you will need to recharge them before the car will run. The Nissan Leaf is the first BEV produced by a major automaker.

Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV)

An EREV drives on electricity 100% of the time but after its batteries are depleted it has an internal combustion engine that acts as a generator to supply electricity to the electric motor. The first major automaker with an EREV is General Motors with the Chevrolet Volt.

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV)

A PHEV uses batteries and an internal combustion engine for propulsion. A PHEV's batteries are larger than in a standard hybrid vehicle allowing you to go further on electric power.

What are the benefits?

Electric vehicles offer many benefits, such as providing an economic alternative to diesel and gasoline powered vehicles, and providing a more environmentally-friendly means of transportation while decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.

Charging your PEV:

It is expected that charging will take place primarily at home or at work and will, at least initially, be done using either "Level 1" or "Level 2" charging:

Level 1 charging: recharges the vehicle from a standard 120 volt household outlet. 
Level 2 charging: recharges the vehicle using 240 volts and requires the installation of a certified charging station.

You can view a list of charging station vendors at  Plug In America's website. Your PEV dealer may also have information on purchasing a charging station.

There is also a network of public charging stations that is starting to develop. Google maps provides a view of the public charging stations in your area. 

In the future…

In the future, electric vehicles coupled with AMI meters could lead to a number of innovative features such as the ability to transmit electricity stored in your vehicle's battery back to the grid. This would be useful when there is high demand for electricity, for example on a hot day when lots of air conditioners are running, or when renewable energy is less available (perhaps a calm day when wind turbines are motionless). Being able to store energy and provide it back to the grid when needed will help manage variable energy sources, like wind and solar and makes the integration of renewable energy more efficient.

Vehicle comparisons and special electric rates:

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:  Vehicle Cost Calculator

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

As major car manufactures such as General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Tesla, and others launch their new designs in the electric vehicle market, electric utilities are preparing for increased demands on the electric grid. With proper utility planning, the current electric system will be able to support the addition of electric vehicles.

See also: frequently asked questions * Plug in America

Smart Appliances

Home Wireless AppliancesWhat is a smart appliance?

A smart appliance has a computer chip that "talks" with your smart meter giving you options on your electricity use.  Choices that can benefit the environment and even save you money!  In the near future, look for smart appliances like thermostats, clothes washers, dryers, microwaves, water heaters, refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers to be in stores.

Will I save money on electricity?

There are a few smart appliance models available now, but you will not be able to use all of the "smart" features right away. Some features of smart appliances will require dynamic pricing plans offered by your utility. (Dynamic pricing plans may not be immediately available when smart meter are installed.) Once these plans are in place, your smart appliance will be able to communicate with the electric grid and can be programmed to do tasks that use more power, such as defrosting your freezer, when electricity is the cheapest. Customers on dynamic pricing programs will have the opportunity to save money as they shift their energy usage away from peak hours.

Smart appliances will be controlled by the homeowner and NOT the utility, leaving the decision of when an appliance operates in YOUR hands.  Programming appliances may be done in a variety of ways: through an appliance's control panel or via the internet using a computer or a smartphone. With more tools for managing electric consumption, people will have the option of being more informed about when they are using electricity and what it is costing.

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!    

This shift also reduces the average cost of electricity by avoiding having to bring additional power plants into production to meet peak demand, and by reducing transmission and distribution losses.

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 company to inquire when a smart meter will become available, and what the long range plans are for dynamic pricing.  Contact your utility.   

Where can I get a Smart Appliance?

Many major appliance stores carry smart appliances built 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. 

See also: frequently asked questions