Turning information into power – moving toward the smart grid

Guerry Waters,
Vice President,
Industry Strategy,
Oracle Utilities
Redwood Shores, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 9, 2009 – Utilities believe the smart grid is critical to meeting the impending energy needs and almost half are taking the first steps in terms of assessing the opportunity for smart grid technologies, but almost half also believe that upfront consumer expenses will be the biggest roadblock to maximizing its benefits, according to a new survey by Oracle.

The survey, conducted online with more than 600 energy consumers and 200 utility managers, found that the majority of Americans are concerned about energy costs and are interested in receiving detailed information on their energy use and on renewable energy technologies for their home. However, only 20 percent said they would pay an upfront fee to view a detailed energy consumption report. Moreover, of the 58 percent of electricity and multi-service organizations currently offering net metering programs, just 11 percent said their customers are actively pursuing these programs.

Nevertheless the majority of respondents said they had taken steps in the past 12 months to lower their energy costs. The most popular measure, cited by more than three-quarters, was the upgrading of light bulbs with compact fluorescents, while 29 percent said they had replaced appliances with more energy efficient versions.

Also more than half said they would spend more on a home that included renewable energy technology to allow the generation and storage of enough power to meet most of their needs.

However, when asked to grade their utility supplier on their “current ability to provide detailed, useful information on energy consumption,” only 14 percent of Americans and 16 percent of utility managers gave their utility supplier an “A”.

Utility managers see the main benefits of the smart grid as improving power flow management through critical peak pricing programs and the ability to detect developing overload conditions and supplying customers with the tools to monitor and reduce energy use at home. About two thirds are also preparing to accept renewable energy sources into the grid.

In spite of the challenges the utility managers believe a nationwide smart energy grid will be fully implemented in eight years, and they predict that almost half of Americans will take advantage of smart grid technologies to reduce their energy costs if they are available.

Commenting on the survey Guerry Waters, vice president, industry strategy at Oracle Utilities said that Americans want more information that will help them to make smarter decisions about their energy consumption.

“The survey indicates that while utilities are starting to make the move toward the smart grid, there is a significant opportunity to maximize results by focusing on consumer education, awareness and communication,” said Waters.

Oracle also notes that utilities can streamline the smart grid preparation process and maximize success by developing detailed transition plans, securing buy-in from stakeholders, and evaluating and implementing integrated, standards-based technology.