How to do smart grid consumer engagement right


Patty Durand,
Executive Director,
Atlanta, GA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 22, 2013 – From its ongoing research on consumer engagement the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) has identified a set of seven principles that result in a high degree of consumer satisfaction and acceptance, based on the approaches of four utilities to integrate education and engagement into their residential, customer-facing smart grid programs.

According to the SGCC, looking across the dynamic ecosystem of smart grid, positive experience with smart grid is growing. As consumers become aware of smart grid/smart meters, utilities have started introducing new technology, devices and applications to empower them, help them take action, and control their usage.

The seven core ingredients of successful smart grid engagements are:

  1. Educate customers before deployment
  2. Anticipate and answer questions before customers ask them – employees can be trained as ambassadors, and FAQs should be shared
  3. Facilitate community engagement, e.g. through contests designed to engage
  4. Communicate ways to shift usage off-peak
  5. Deploy a user friendly web portal
  6. Offer user friendly smart grid enabled technology such as thermostats
  7. Create authentic customer testimonials.

These can serve as a resource for all industry stakeholders looking to hasten consumer awareness, acceptance and adoption of smart grid technologies and programs, says the SGCC report, adding the list is not meant to be a definitive tally of successful consumer engagement by utilities. There are other utilities in the U.S., including those owned by governments, that have demonstrated considerable progress in engaging their customers about what smart grid investments mean to them.

“When utilities take certain steps to engage consumers in the smart grid and empower them to manage their energy, it works,” said SGCC executive director Patty Durand. “As consumers become more educated about smart grid and smart meters, and have access to more information, pricing, and automation applications, their knowledge and favorability grows, and so does our nation’s energy efficiency.”

And the four utilities were CenterPoint Energy, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison – all with a significant deployment of smart meters and the underlying AMI, education programs that enable and motivate consumers to use the available smart grid technology and/or program, evidence of consumer engagement, and willing to share the lessons they’re learning.