Data Said To Be The Key To Unlock Smart Grid Opportunities

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Customers are naturally resistant to Smart Grid technology that raises rates and provides nothing back to the customer. Utilities are finally recognizing this and are looking for new ways to con consumers into full adoption.¬†‚ĀÉ TN Editor

Having a smart meter installed doesn’t mean an electric customer is interested in, or aware of,¬†clean energy products and services. Conversely, new research shows plenty of consumers without advanced metering infrastructure (AMI)¬†want a smart thermostat, time-varying electric rate or other new offering from their utility.

How can utilities bridge that gap and connect these customers to smart grid opportunities?

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative has released a new survey of 1,500 customers providing insight into interest in a range of clean-energy technologies, highlighting the work utilities still must do to connect with more skeptical customers. But it also provides thoughts on how best to reach them, and where to begin that work.

The group surveyed customers in 16 states‚ÄĒnine of which are in advanced stages of smart meter deployment, and seven considered a “control.” The results surprised researchers: states with more advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) rollout showed only marginally-higher customer awareness of clean-energy products.

“We expected to find much more consumer engagement in states post-AMI deployment,” said SGCC President and CEO Patty Durand. However, “we didn’t find a big difference in customers in the two sets of states…There is a slight increase, but it’s more like 5% than the 20% expected.”

SGCC’s research is a different type of utility survey, offering customers discrete choices and requiring them to make tradeoffs in their preferred products. It identified two technologies as most desirable: smart thermostats and time varying rates. It also showed that interest in these products has less to do with what state a customer is in and how exposed they are to AMI, and more to do with other demographics.

“If a state has rolled out AMI,¬†those consumers don’t actually show any difference in awareness. But when we reframed the data according to the segmentation framework, there is a difference,”¬†Durand said.

While those findings may surprise or disappoint utilities, they also give insight into how utilities can market their products to a broader range, more effectively.

“It’s not where you live that matters, but who you are,” said Durand.

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