A practical guide to explaining the value of the smart grid.
Patty Durand is executive director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative. Previously she helped to prepare and submit $10 million in smart grid grant proposals to the Department of Energy and ARPA-E, and she conducted smart grid research projects at Georgia Institute of Technology.
It’s a common theme – skeptical stakeholders and reporters will say, “OK, a smart grid is good for the utility, and what’s good for the utility is supposed to be good for the consumer. But exactly what’s in it for the consumer?”
Explaining the value proposition of a smarter electricity system to consumers, stakeholders, and regulators remains the last mile in terms of driving acceptance and adoption of smarter technology. Why? Because it’s not easy to do for most organizations, and because our nation’s energy literacy isn’t where it should be. And without widespread time-of-use or other smart grid programs deployed in every service territory in the United States, it’s difficult to understand how new pricing programs and technology investments are tied to direct consumer benefits.
A customer might rightly ask, “Why should I accept expensive smart grid technology investments for benefits that I don’t see and that only help the utility?” That is, if they have even heard the term “smart grid.”
Even in the wake of storms such as Sandy, where outage restoration dominated headlines, consumers have yet to understand the whole value of an advanced electricity infrastructure. Understandably, regulators take a conservative approach to approving new smart grid programs and technology investments since they have two priority goals: maintaining the lowest cost and the highest reliability for customers.