Canadians want to be engaged in smart grids


Alex Bettencourt,
Managing Director,
SmartGrid Canada
Toronto, ON, Canada — (METERING.COM) — October 19, 2012 – Canadian consumers clearly want to be engaged with smart grids – but they want to know more about what value these technologies can deliver, a new survey from SmartGrid Canada and the Independent Electricity System Operator has found.

The favorability levels for smart grids and smart homes among respondents were 68 percent and 69 percent respectively. However, only 27 percent indicated they had at minimum a basic knowledge of smart grids and 40 percent claimed they had at least some understanding of smart homes.

The online survey was conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion, a VisionCritical Practice, in English and French, with responses collected from more than 2,000 Canadians in September, 2012.

According to the survey Canadian awareness levels of smart meters are higher than those in the U.S., which can be attributed largely to the large scale smart meter deployments in Ontario and British Columbia.

Further, 72 percent of Ontarians indicated they have changed their energy use in response to time-of-use rates, with a slighter lower percentage (69 per cent) believing that these efforts are having an impact on their bills.

However, only 17 percent of Canadians outside of Ontario indicated they would like to make the switch to time-of-use rates, but more than half were interested in learning more about variable pricing options.

“This survey reveals a window of opportunity for our industry,” said Alex Bettencourt, managing director of SmartGrid Canada. “Canadians are, by and large, very open to the concept of smart grids and smart homes. While they may have an inkling of what it might entail, there’s clearly a need for our industry to raise awareness levels through large scale education efforts and address consumer concerns about cost, control and privacy.”

The survey also found that in terms of personal expenditures on smart home technologies, 45 percent of the respondents said they already have or would consider purchasing a smart appliance within the next three to five years. Almost a third said they already have or would consider participating in a load control program, and a similar percentage was interested in downloading a mobile app that would show how much energy they were using. Just under a quarter of respondents were also likely to buy, lease or rent an electric car.

Among the perceived downsides of smart grids, 37 percent of Canadians believe smart grids could lead to a loss of control over their energy use; and while 71 percent felt that smart grids will either save money or be revenue neutral, 28 percent believed that they will result in higher costs in the long run.

“As utilities and others improve our electricity system with smart grid technologies, we have to provide consumers with the information they need to understand the opportunities these changes create and decide for themselves whether they want to get on board,” added Paul Murphy, president and CEO of the IESO.