Consumers Energy has selected SmartSynch to provide the advanced metering system that will form the foundation of a grid and meter modernization program for its 1.8 million electric customers in Michigan.

The company's decision to use existing cellular networks for large-scale, high performance smart grid communications, in lieu of building and maintaining a private network, comes after extensive research and testing of available industry solutions. It makes Consumers Energy, which serves more than two-thirds of Michigan across a 32,000-square-mile service territory, the largest U.S. utility to choose a cellular-based communication system for the smart meter deployment phase of its grid modernization program.

Meter installation is scheduled to begin in Muskegon County in August 2012 with installation phases continuing through 2019 across the utility's service territory. In addition to the 1.8 million electric meters, the company continues to evaluate the installation of communications modules on approximately 600,000 gas meters in areas where the utility serves customers with both electricity and natural gas.

SmartSynch's technology creates a two-way communications system that will provide customers with detailed information about their energy usage, allowing them to better manage their energy use and their bills. Traditional meters just measure energy use and customers only get that information when they get their bills.

John Russell, the president and chief executive officer of Consumers Energy, said the SmartSynch technology and the grid and meter modernization project are part of the utility's focus on working with customers to help them manage their energy use.