SGCC issues paper on consumer awareness of the smart grid

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) issued a whitepaper comprising the results of a survey on consumer engagement in smart grid related utility programmes.

According to SGCC, the study is an on-going platform used by SGCC to understand and highlight consumer awareness, interests and attitudes around utility programmes.

Since its launch in 2011, the survey is the organisation’s six edition investigating customer perceptions of smart grid technologies, smart meters and related products and services.

The study consists of some 1,652 interviews conducted by SGCC through online portals with consumers in nine US census divisions in March 2017.

According to the findings of the survey, Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation, 72% of consumers in the US are aware of smart meters and 70% say they heard of a smart grid.

44% of survey participants are technologically advanced and always engaged on initiatives to improve their energy efficiency through the use of smart grid technologies.

SGCC says this 44 % have the most interest in energy efficiency and are aware of the value energy conservation has on their lifestyle. The survey describes them as those who say “smart energy technologies fit our environmentally-aware high-tech lifestyle.”

Consumers fitting amongst the 44% according to SGCC are college educated, earn higher incomes, communicate with utility firms using digital channels and live in urban/suburban locations.

Consumer interest in utility programmes

On the other hand, the study revealed that 16% of consumers in the US are rarely interested in energy efficiency projects. According to the survey, this group of consumers ‘Rarely Engaged’ is the least knowledgeable about energy technologies and their level of participation in energy management initiatives is very low.

According to the survey, this group of consumers ‘Rarely Engaged’ is the least knowledgeable about energy technologies and their level of participation in energy management initiatives is very low. A majority of consumers in this group live in rural areas, are retired and have lower incomes compared to consumers in other groups.

Lastly, 40% of consumers in the US were named Selectively Engaged as they participate in energy efficiency programmes on their own terms and when they have a specific need. This group of customers people either retired or unemployed with income levels ranging from middle to low and their interests and awareness on smart grid varying greatly.

In overall, the survey found that consumers in the US are interested in all types of smart grid-enabled programmes and technologies with above 40% of consumers expressing interest in most offerings. Of the utility offerings included in the survey, only one generated consumer interest below 33%.

One in five consumers participated in at least one utility programme with online billing and payment the most common utility programme in the US. Three-quarters of consumers say they are interested in energy storage to provide backup power to their homes, 66% want real-time reporting of power outages, 65% real-time energy usage data and 59% showed interest in critical peak rebate demand response programmes.

The results of the survey led SGCC to conclude that:

  • There is a strong overlap in demographic characteristics among those who embrace a digital lifestyle and those who have an affinity for a clean energy lifestyle.
  • Despite having a stronger affinity for a clean energy lifestyle, younger people — especially Millennials — generally perceive more barriers in taking energy-saving actions.
  • The real opportunity when creating programs and working to increase engagement is reaching the “Selectively Engaged” middle group of consumers.


Image credit: 123rf.

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.