pkes+smart gridWhile the smart grid has been met with great fanfare from the broadband and utility industries, average consumers have shown little interest, and even strong opposition in some cases. The fact of the matter is, most consumers don’t understand what the smart grid is, and quite frankly, don’t care. Part of this apathy comes from poor communication and messaging regarding the value of the smart grid to everyday life.

Pike Research identified this issue in some recent consumer research. Results show some interest in home energy management and connected smart appliances. Close to half of survey respondents selected “extremely” or “very” interested with regard to utilizing these services in the home.

“While consumers are less enthused about smart meters and demand response programs, our survey found that home energy management and smart appliances enjoy relatively strong levels of interest,” says Pike Research vice president Bob Gohn in a press release. “As consumers became more familiar with smart meters, their favorable attitudes also increased, indicating that the utilities still have a public education challenge ahead of them.”

I’m not sure these results indicate “strong interest,” but there does appear to be some curiosity from consumers when smart grid is put into the context of applications that bring perceived value to everyday life.

Another interesting data point revealed consumer opposition to smart grid initiatives, with 57% of respondents concerned about the additional costs they may endure. In other words, the majority of consumers don’t see a cost benefit for smart grid, at least not yet.

Energy costs are on the minds of most people these days, primarily due to rising gas prices. Any perception of rising costs with regards to energy will most likely draw a negative reaction.

For smart grid, utilities and broadband providers have their work cut out for them regarding consumer perception and adoption. Educating consumers of the benefit of smart grid empowered applications and the potential energy cost savings they might create is not an easy message to convey.

Image courtesy of flickr user LGEPR.

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6 thoughts on “SmartGrid: Do Consumers Get It?

  1. As long as "Smart" technologies are seen as ways to find out how energy is being used, it will be viewed as a way to segregate rates. In other words, if a charger reports to a central station about how or when it is being used it will be resonably be suspected of determining "special rates" for charging. To many this means that the utilities are looking for a way to charge gas prices for my electric car which I frankly bought to save money, at least partially. Most people don't want Utilities to know whether they are charging a Car or energizing a light. It is all electricity, so why should it matter. Do you have special rates for filling your Pool or watering your lawn on your water bill?

    1. By definition a lake is a form of a battery and when the battery isn't large enough Cities have had to make orders to stop filling your pools and watering your lawn until a bigger lake can be built.

      In contrast, there are few batteries compared to the size of the electric grid so most electricity is generated and consumed near the speed of light; therefore, more power plants will have to be built to cover the peak demand with electricity before it is ever required by electric consumers.

      Smart meters are only one way to shave the electric peak and the other common form is voluntary or utility load control programs to prevent having to build as many power plants.

    2. Gary
      Indeed, electricity should be charged as any other product, by cost of production. In our case it means higher cost, and higher charge, at peak hours. This has nothing to do with the use of the electricity. There is a lot of public education to be doneif we want a smooth transition into the smar electricity era.

  2. A good article, making a very valid point.The electricity industry has to create a 'market pull', in order for the smart grid (and meters) to be installed and serve their purpose – controlling an ever more chaotic grid. With domestic production of electricity, charging of electric cars and trade of power that has to be transported over significant, unexpected distances, the grid is becoming increasingly difficult to control. The public must understand that the smart grid is a must, not just another 'green' nice to have gimmick (with all due respect). the article makes the point that the way to the public is not only through its pocket, but also through 'smart grid empowered applications' , a whole new market for hi-tec entrepreneurs
    Gary Schaffer, Israel.

  3. To Just a Thought (someone from the electric business)

    More of the same: government comes and says it's taking our cars away because they can built/maintain fewer roads if they force everyone onto public transportation. Etc………
    Sad to think that what the patriots thought they were dying for on Bunker Hill ended up in this kind of thinking about the surrender of freedom.

    1. A smarter grid is on the way and it will cost more. Long term planning is essential (60 years or more). Government's place is only to provide more regulatory certainty to make those long term decisions in the private sector. Government can't make the long term decisions because their focus doesn't go beyond the next election cycle. The road to Freedom is through the private sector.

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