Low income consumers expect smart grids to improve reliability in U.S.


Patty Durand,
Executive Director,
Atlanta, GA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — September 19, 2012 – Low income consumers see the main benefit of smart grids as preventing and reducing the lengths of outages, according to a new study from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

And these consumers are also prepared to pay for this benefit, the study found – unlike the general population who indicated the most important benefit they were prepared to pay for is to make the connection of renewable energy sources easier.

The new study is one in a series being undertaken by the Collaborative to track public awareness of smart grid and its consumer benefits.

The study found that a significantly lower percentage of low income consumers say they have some understanding of smart grid and smart meters, compared with the general population. They are also less favorable towards smart grid and smart meters, with four in ten low income consumers who are aware of smart grid describing their general feelings as favorable, while another 20 percent-plus are neutral.

However, six in ten low income consumers support their utility starting now to implement smart grid/smart meter technology.

Other benefits of these technologies felt to be of benefit by low income consumers include the provision of near real time energy information, greater ease to connect renewables to the grid, limiting the need to invest in new power plants, eliminating the need for meter reading, improved power quality, and the offer of new kinds of rate plans.

These consumers expressed interest in participating in time-of-use pricing and critical peak rebate programs. However, there is little interest in prepay (pay as you go) programs, with only 7 percent saying they would be very likely to participate.

According to the study, implications of the findings include the need for more effective outreach and customized low income communications. Using the Spanish language is critical to communicating effectively with many low income Hispanics.

“Every consumer, regardless of socioeconomic status, should be aware of the benefits of smart grid,” said Patty Durand, SGCC executive director. “By educating low income consumers about these benefits and acknowledging their preferences, utilities have an opportunity to capitalize on untapped potential for demand reduction across the grid.”  

The study was based on telephonic interviews with 1,001 low income consumers in the U.S.