Customer buy-in is key to smart grid success but few utilities are preparing customers for change, study finds


Linda Jackman,
Group VP of Industry
Strategy, Oracle
Orlando, FL, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 24, 2011 – While securing customer buy-in is regarded by most utilities as a key to smart grid success, less than half are actually educating their customers on the smart grid’s value proposition, according to a new survey from Oracle.

The “Smart Grid Challenges & Choices: An Executive Vision of Utilities’ Priorities” research study, which surveyed 152 North American C-level utility executives, found that additionally, three-quarters of utilities rely on one-way customer communication via mail and/or web sites, and few use social media or other means to engage customers in a two-way discussion.

The survey was aimed at understanding utilities’ visions for the upcoming decade, how smart grid plans and expectations are evolving and how utilities are communicating these changes to their customers.

The survey found that utilities that have implemented pilot programs or system-wide smart grid deployments anticipate that only 38 percent of customers will take advantage of energy conservation programs, such as smart metering pilot programs, in-home energy management programs, programmable thermostats and incentives for reducing energy loads, etc., once they are available.

The utility executives also agreed that their top priorities for the next 10 years will be improving service reliability (40 percent) and controlling customer costs (40 percent). However, just half believe smart grid is the answer for improving energy service and other factors include providing customers with better information, good asset management programs, and streamlining operations and diversifying renewables across the board.

“Smart grid is moving from vision to reality,” said Linda Jackman, group vice president of industry strategy, Oracle Utilities, adding that leveraging integrated technology, applications and analytics will help utilities extract and derive value from data to enable them to exchange relevant, consistent and regular communication with customers and enact real change.

Other findings were that more than two-thirds of utilities are taking steps to support plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) adoption, and that technology integration and vendor partnerships are seen as critical for the road ahead.