Utilities struggling to communicate with consumers, study finds


Boulder, CO, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 16, 2013 – Despite the increasingly widespread deployment of smart meters in the United States, utilities are struggling to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grid applications and services to end users, Pike Research have warned in their latest Smart Grid Consumer Survey.

According to the survey, which involved 1,000 consumers, nearly three-quarters were concerned about the impact of the cost of electricity on their monthly budget, and almost two-thirds were interested in managing the energy used in their home. However, when it came to acting on that interest, almost half expressed a lack of awareness of HEM services and showed low degrees of interest in their willingness to participate in programs such as demand response.

Further, approximately two-thirds of the consumers had a favorable or neutral view of smart grids and smart meters. However, still, almost a third were not familiar with smart grids and quarter were not familiar with smart meters.

In many cases, the smart home capabilities made possible through smart grids and smart meters were most appealing to the younger, more educated, higher income respondents. But it is the more mature segment of the population that is most interested in managing their home electricity usage. This indicates a potential disconnect in the association between smart meter-enabled approaches for controlling energy use within that segment, and an overall lack of willingness to engage with these approaches.

The survey also found that the majority of consumers are not willing to pay a premium for renewable energy sources,suggesting that they are not convinced that they should support the development of these energy sources through higher bills.

Less than one-third also showed a strong interest in TOU pricing, and less than 40 percent were extremely likely or somewhat likely to consider a demand response program.

“While it appears that utilities are having some success in their messages about the value of the smart grid, especially the meters themselves, other indicators show that the link between programs and services that leverage smart meter capabilities is weak,” says the report.

It adds that models for how to best effectively engage consumers in managing their energy use are just beginning to be established and proven out, but it is still early in the adoption cycle for many of the approaches that utilities need consumers to embrace to achieve desired energy and capacity savings.

“This warns of difficult days ahead in reaching the kind of critical mass level of participation that is required on the demand side of the meter for meaningful energy and capacity savings.”

Pike Research has forecast that there will be more than 53 million smart meters deployed in the U.S. by the end of 2013.