Understanding consumer preferences in energy efficiency.
Greg Guthridge leads Accenture’s utilities retail and business services practice. Email him at email@example.com.
Growing concerns over climate change, security of supply, and volatile energy costs are prompting governments and energy providers to respond with bold new investments. Smart grid infrastructure, renewable generation capacity, and an array of pricing and demand-response programs are just a few of the initiatives under way across the globe. In the United States, some $3.4 billion in federal smart grid grants are encouraging utilities and electricity providers to embrace smart metering. However, as energy providers well know, this shift involves massive operational and cultural change—for providers, as well as consumers.
To their credit, some providers already are taking steps to educate and motivate consumers. Earlier this year, electric power companies and industry groups launched the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative—a nonprofit that aims to get consumers involved in their energy consumption. Alongside such positive activity, however, high-profile lawsuits, consumer backlash, and tighter regulations are illustrating the myriad of challenges and risks involved in smart metering initiatives. The struggles of early smart technology implementers highlight energy providers’ relative lack of experience and expertise in engaging with their customers.