Engaging consumers is critical to smart grid success, with an overwhelmingly positive value proposition for consumers supporting investments in smart grid, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) has confirmed in its latest annual ‘State of the Consumer’ report.

The review, which is based on SGCC research conducted over the past year, identifies six key themes:

  • 1: Consumer awareness and favorability are stable over time, being largely the same today as when the SGCC initiated its ‘Consumer pulse and market segmentation’ program in 2011, despite smart meters being installed in nearly 40% of U.S. homes and the emergence of the term ‘smart grid’ in mainstream use. This shows that we still have a long way to go in helping consumers understand smart grid and why it matters to their future.
  • 2: Segmentation drives performance, with utilities that approach consumers with benefits that they care about realizing better program performance than those that use a blanket message. Additionally, there may be opportunities for utilities to drive revenues by offering added value to consumers.
  • 3: Utilities can use field-tested best practices frameworks to engage customers, with a core set of activities including engaging customers before technology deployment, facilitating employee and community engagement, and listening and engaging with customer concerns and questions.
  • 4: Customers want smart grid “made real” for them, with consumer interest in smart grid-enabled technologies and programs very strong. SGCC believes this gap between interest and adoption can be narrowed through consumer-focused product/service development and by communicating with consumers in the language and via the channels they prefer.
  • 5: Consumers value clean energy, with clean energy and grid reliability regarded as extremely important benefits of the smart grid for which consumers would be willing to pay more to receive.
  • 6: The smart grid offers real benefits that consumers care about, with real-world experience demonstrating net present value of smart grid investments ranging from $247 to $713 per customer and significant environmental and reliability improvements.

“The key to understanding the latest trends in engaging and educating consumers in smart grid is understanding how to appeal to them in terms that will resonate,” said SGCC Executive Director Patty Durand. “In order to increase awareness of a consumer-safe, consumer-friendly smart grid to consumers, utilities and other smart grid technology providers must do a better job at engaging consumers and getting into a consumer-first mindset.”

SGCC will continue its research during 2014 with themes including a spotlight on low income consumers and an examination of the motivations and emotions of a small set of U.S. consumers to help understand what drives engagement.

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