In developed smart meter markets, utilities can’t spend too much on consumer education, according to Tim Wolf, director of marketing, Smart Grid Solutions, at Itron.

Mr Wolf, speaking at the Itron Africa Users’ Conference in Cape Town, said: “In the US in retrospect, we didn’t anticipate the small but powerful opposition movement to smart meters and how long it would take to deflect it.

“Consumers have a hunger for data and power companies need to put resource into researching issues such as radio frequency emissions from smart meters, as well as data privacy.”

“And we made the mistake of over promising on the benefits of EV cars and consumer-owned solar when utilities were still in the process of installing and testing smart meters. Utilities need to take a consistent approach to when benefits will actually be available.”

In a developed society where consumers have access to large amounts of information about most aspects of their daily life, utilities are still operating in a low-information department, said Wolf.

The more feedback consumers receive about their energy usage, the more energy efficient they are likely to be, he said.

Wolf cited a study that shows that as the amount and frequency of communications to consumers increased, so did the household electricity savings.

At the lowest level, an enhanced bill featuring household specific advice resulted in savings of 3.8 per cent and at the highest level, where consumers received enhanced real-time feedback, households saved 12 per cent.

Smart grid?
Consumer awareness in the US and Canada of smart meters and smart grids, however, is on the decline.

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative found that less then half of the US and Canadian public are aware of the term smart grid and what it means. This number has been declining year on year between 2011-2013.

And in the US, where smart meter penetration is 50 per cent, less than 50% of households are aware that they have a smart meter that can offer them a variety of services through a web portal, said Wolf.

Today’s top stories
Revenue collection – the first step to an African smart city
Comfort, convenience and cost-reduction – the way to consumers’ hearts
Nigeria consumers still waiting for 6.4m meters