The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released research into UK attitudes to smart grids. One of the major findings is that the more respondents felt they knew about smart meters the more likely they were to support the UK’s roll-out of the devices and to want one themselves. Britain’s smart meter installation programme aims to ensure smart meters are in all homes by 2019.
The research is to understand consumer awareness, understanding of and attitudes towards domestic smart meters and to see how these are changing over time. There will be three face-to-face surveys in homes across the country, the first was in April 2012 with further surveys in October 2012 and April 2013. This first phase reflected the views of nearly 2,400 energy bill payers.
Half of energy bill-payers had heard of smart meters (49%), with 5% claiming that they have one installed.
A third (32%) supported smart meter installation, while 20% opposed the plan. But it leaves almost half undecided.
Four in ten (42%) of those without a smart meter in their home were interested in having one installed. Younger and larger households expressing greater support and interest.
Smart grid benefits were seen as being better able to manage household finances (33%), to avoid wasted energy (26%) and produce a greater accuracy of billing (19%). Disadvantages included direct or indirect cost (19%) and data security (10%).
There’s more about customers’ experiences with smart meters, attitudes to in-home displays (IHDs) and the need for more information in the survey results, which are available here.
Review: Mark England, CEO of smart grid/meter company Sentec, commented on the research:
The research DECC has published today is very much in line with their decision to put the consumer at the heart of the smart meter rollout. The UK has genuinely learnt from the large consumer backlash experienced in the US market that early customer engagement is key to success. The advantage of the UK’s unique supplier-led rollout is that it’s in their interest to educate customers about the energy and money-saving benefits of smart meters to encourage participation and retain their customers. The report has found that the more respondents felt they knew about smart meters, the more likely they were to support the rollout, highlighting once again that if the rollout is to be a success, it is imperative that it remains consumer-focused and that any confusion/ lack of knowledge is avoided.
I agree very much with his sentiment, but would put it more strongly.
The report points out that while 5% claimed to have smart meters installed that can’t actually be true yet. Clearly some respondents didn’t understand what a smart meter is even after it was explained. And we are increasingly seeing reports in the UK press of the negative views of smart meters in some other countries.
So I would look to DECC to step up the efforts to educate and inform consumers. It seems to me that in the long run (particularly when we have smart grids in place) smart meters can only be a good thing. But we’ve seen enough examples of government’s encroaching on personal freedoms to know that smart meters may suffer from a backlash.
The subsequent waves of the survey should at least show any shift in attitude.