Survey to Utilities: Stress Smart Grid Benefits to Win Over Consumers

Multiple smart grid benefits resonate with consumers — it’s not just about saving money — and when consumers are provided with information about the benefits and key concerns of smart grid technology, the positive statements are more persuasive, according to a report issued today by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

The 2013 State of the Consumer Report says about 75 percent of consumers haven’t heard the term smart grid or don’t know what it means. Utilities companies’ best bet for building smart-grid support is weaving a number of benefits together, according to the research.

The report says San Diego Gas & Electric found a staged messaging approach about the meters and their deployment — starting in 2009 and scaling up through 2012 — built customer awareness and satisfaction. Out of the 2.3 million meter installations, SDG&E received complaints from 1,200, or .16 percent, it says.

While the study found positive perceptions about smart grid outweigh negative perceptions, some consumers do have worries that can erode their support.

Increased cost (37 percent) is the No. 1 reason customers gave for not implementing smart grid technology. Other reasons mentioned for not implementing the technology include potential job losses (5 percent), and data privacy and security concerns (4 percent).

To mitigate these concerns, CenterPoint Energy and Southern California Edison (SCE) both created extensive FAQs about smart meter privacy, health, accuracy and safety, the report says.

About eight in 10 survey participants (77-85 percent) say they consider each smart meter benefit to be important (see chart). A smaller number — between 19-20 percent — say each benefit is important enough to warrant paying $3-$4 extra on a monthly electric bill.

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative found the two benefits that drew the highest percentage (29 percent) of consumers willing to pay extra are:

  • A Smart Grid senses problems and reroutes power automatically. This prevents some outages and reduces the length of those that do occur.
  • Smart Grid reduces greenhouse gas emissions by making it easier to connect renewable energy sources.

From this, the report concludes that utilities should not focus on a single reason or benefit of implementing smart-grid technology, and instead stress a number of positives and tailor the outreach efforts to individual customers and segments.

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