Sen. Colbeck: Safety and security concerns drive need for smart meter opt-out

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, testified on Tuesday before the House Energy and Technology Committee in support of HB 4220, legislation that would restore consumer protections regarding the type of meters that are installed upon their personal property.

Sen. Colbeck focused his testimony on the safety and security risks inherent with the utilities’ promulgation of smart meter technology. Smart meter technology provides the fundamental building blocks for efforts to make Michigan part of a larger “Smart Grid.”

In 2011, James Woolsey, former CIA director, said, “A so-called ‘Smart Grid’ that is as vulnerable as what we’ve got is not smart at all. It’s a really, really stupid grid.”

In support of his testimony, Sen. Colbeck enlisted the support of Cynthia Ayers. Ayers, a nationally recognized cybersecurity expert who currently serves in part as the deputy to the executive director of the congressionally-sponsored Task Force on National and Homeland Security, provided testimony that cyber threats to our electric infrastructure are not mere conjecture. Other nations have been victimized by cyber-attacks that target critical infrastructure such as the power grid. Ayers conveyed that smart meters increase our security risk because, as integral components in a digital network, hackers can use smart meters to remotely shut down power to one or more consumers.

“One of the ways our citizens can secure their own family from such threats to our power grid is to opt out of so-called smart meters and retain analog meters, which have served us well for decades,” Sen. Colbeck said. “Cybersecurity threats today are very real. In fact, the SEC-10K filings for both Consumers Energy and DTE cite cybersecurity as a significant threat that potential investors need to consider before purchasing stock in these companies. Against this increased risk, there is little to no consumer benefit to the adoption of smart meters. The state is doing an insufficient job of regulating our monopoly utilities on this topic in a manner that truly benefits consumers, especially the safety and security of our electricity consumers. Once passed, HB 4220 would return a measure of respect back to our citizens by improving the provisions of law that govern their ability to truly opt out of smart meters.”

Sen. Colbeck also stressed that right now, even today, people are currently without power because of their simple desire to keep an analog meter for their own home. This includes even the frail and elderly, and even during winter conditions.

“We have entire programs set up, subsidized on everyone’s electric bill, to ensure that people keep power during the winter months even if they have not paid their bill,” Sen. Colbeck said.  “For some strange reason, the state conversely is telling utilities it is ok to shut off power to people who have paid their bills and want to continue to pay their bills, simply because these people want to control what takes place on their own private property. We can’t let that continue, and we must pass HB 4220 both to give consumers true choice with our monopolistic utilities, and to sever any notions that people must choose between new technology they don’t want and being able to keep the power on for their own property.”

The legislation, similar to an amendment that Sen. Colbeck offered on the floor last year, could receive a committee vote in the near future.



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