Utilities face consumer awareness and engagement challenges with smart meters, study finds


Christopher Perdue,
Director Smart Energy
Practice, J.D. Power
and Associates
Westlake Village, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — October 26, 2012 – While many of the smart meter products and services utilities provide encourage their customers to actively participate in managing their energy costs, utilities still face challenges to smart meter introduction in the marketplace, according to a new study from J.D. Power and Associates 2012.

The latest consumer study to hit the wires, the inaugural Smart Pulse Study examines customer engagement indicators including smart grid and smart meter awareness levels, smart meter installation satisfaction levels, and customer adoption levels of products and services, among residential utility customers who have a smart meter installed.

Slightly more than one-third of customers surveyed for the study were unaware of any smart meter efforts made by their utility company, while the remaining 64 percent were aware of some effort, whether it be regarding smart grid, smart meters only, or both smart grid and smart meters. However, not all utility companies excel in raising awareness of their smart meter efforts, as there is a gap of 56 percentage points between the highest and lowest levels of customer awareness.

Customers of Georgia Power, PPL Electric Utilities, Portland General Electric and SMUD have the most positive opinions of their utility after smart meter installation, the study found.

The method through which customers receive information from their utility also impacts both awareness levels and sentiment toward their utility. Among customers who receive smart meter information via text message or the utility’s blog, more than half said they have a more positive opinion of their utility than those who do not receive text messages. Among customers who receive information via other communication channels, such as bill inserts, door hangers and direct mail, more than 60 percent say the information did not change their opinion of the utility.

“The customer communication and education efforts of utility companies are an integral part of any smart meter technology initiative,” commented Christopher Perdue, director of the smart energy practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Ensuring that customers are knowledgeable of smart meters and that their questions are answered has a great impact on customers’ favorability toward their utility company.”

The 2012 Smart Pulse Study is based on 9,368 online interviews conducted from August 29, 2012, through September 10, 2012, among residential customers of 17 electric utility brands across the United States and Canada in which at least 85 percent of customers have a smart meter installed.