(November 2011) Hitachi Power Systems America wins contract from Westar Energy; City of Fort Collins selects Elster, Siemens Energy, eMeter and Tropos GridCom...
insulation), consumers are taking action.
IBM’s 2011 Global Utility Consumer Survey, for example, found that respondents who were the most knowledgeable about energy issues were 64 percent more likely to make changes in their usage patterns. A poll by Harris Interactive in 2012 revealed that 82 percent of respondents are turning off lights, TVs, computers, and other electronics when not in use; 58 percent are replacing incandescent lights; 56 percent are using power strips; and 55 percent look at the ENERGY STAR label when replacing appliances.
The barrage of messages is clearly getting through, and the avenues available to reach consumers are growing. One such new opportunity is afforded by the Green Button initiative that offers the ability to make the educational process personal by showing consumers information about their own energy consumption. By adding some incremental intelligence this information could be used to generate specific recommendations for improvements.
The smart grid with its smart meters provides yet another opportunity for educating consumers. The 2011 Consumer Pulse survey conducted for the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) found that a full 80 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that a smarter grid would help them save money, avoid wasting energy, and make the grid more reliable. Perhaps equally surprising is that green issues and security concerns also ranked quite favorably, with 78 percent strongly or somewhat agreeing that the smart grid would better protect the environment and help make the U.S. more energy independent. So it should come as no surprise that 75 percent also now want more control over home energy use, prices, and billing choices.
The SGCC tested messages and found that the ones emphasizing benefits, including those for society, resonate best with consumers. The seven positive messages that were tested—all demonstrating slight or strong effectiveness—include: saving money; improving reliability; avoid wasting energy; protecting the environment; promoting energy independence; getting greater control over energy consumption; and having more choices about rates and billing. In its survey, EcoPinion found the top three consumer benefits include: lowering bills; identifying and analyzing energy usage to make smarter decisions; and decreasing overall energy consumption.
The 2012 Consumer Pulse survey reemphasized the need to tailor educational campaigns to different segments, which the SGCC characterizes as: Traditionals; Easy Street; Concerned Greens; Young America; and DIY & Save. The first two segments—representing about 40 percent of the population—are the tough sale and will take more time and effort to persuade. But the other three segments constitute a receptive audience that is ready and willing to make changes now.
Both Consumer Pulse surveys reveal that utilities still have some work to do to educate users about the smart grid and smart meters, however. Most have never even heard the terms, and those who have confess to knowing scant few details.
The smart grid and smart meters really do offer genuine benefits to consumers, and when these are conveyed—repeatedly!—in an appropriate way, the messages do get through. Consumers understand basic concepts like supply and demand, and are therefore capable of understanding what will happen if the consumption of electricity