According to a new survey from Pike Research, even though smart grids are being rolled out across the US - with more than 53 million smart meters deployed by the end of 2013 - 30% of US consumers are still unfamiliar with smart grids and 24% are unfamiliar with smart meters.
The findings are from a report - “Smart Grid Consumer Survey” – which details findings from a web-based survey of 1,001 consumers in the US. Other findings include:
73% of consumers have concerns about the impact electricity costs have on their monthly budgets.
63% are interested in managing energy used in their homes.
Less than half (49%) are aware of companies offering home energy management services.
Less than 40% have a high level of interest in participating in programmes such as demand response.
“The survey data indicates we are still in the early phase of consumer awareness and adoption of smart grid technologies, and consumers’ understanding of the benefits that can be derived from these technologies remains relatively low,” says senior research analyst Neil Strother.
One challenge is that various types of smart grid and smart energy home technologies have different levels of consumer awareness and different levels of favourability and acceptance. So, for instance, there is a high level of concern about energy costs, but little awareness of interest in new products and services that can help them curb their electricity consumption.
Pike puts the problem down to awareness and lays the blame on utilities who are struggling to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grids and the possibilities they make available to the end user.
Review: These are particularly disappointing findings. With the number of smart meters already installed and smart grids deployed you could have expected a more positive view from US consumers. Particularly since it’s always been my view that when people start to use smart meters with smart grids, and can better manage their energy use and take advantage of differential pricing, then the benefits will be clear.
My guess is that as yet few people are actually able to benefit this way. There may be lots of smart meters, but not that many are being used with smart grids and even fewer can, as yet, offer significant cost savings. That will only come when renewable power represents a larger part of grid capacity. In the meantime there is a vociferous minority who only see smart meters as Big Brother device in the home.
But certainly the utilities must shoulder a lot of the blame. You would think they would be keener to get customers on their side. Hopefully utilities in the UK (where a national smart meter rollout has yet to start, let alone smart grid deployment) will learn from US mistakes and see the trouble ahead. ICT companies would be wise to provide some support, since a great deal of future home intelligence (and perhaps the Internet of Things) may well hang off home networks integrated with smart meters.