Solving the mystery of the smart grid

The average energy consumer today has not yet been introduced to the smart grid and how this emerging technology can save money, provide more reliable service, and protect the environment. As part of Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s consumer value proposition effort, we have defined three distinct areas of consumer value created by the smart grid:

  1. Economic – the potential to save money with smart grid-enabled energy efficiency, demand response and pricing programs.
  2. Environmental – pollution avoided through both greater efficiencies and the smart grid’s ability to integrate greater levels of renewable energy sources into the generation mix.
  3. Reliability – reduction in the number and length of outages that consumers experience.

More than 43 percent of households in America have smart meters already installed and out of this 43 percent only 24 percent know they have a smart meter on their home. In late 2014, we asked consumers a series of four questions related to these value propositions to investigate – irrespective of their awareness of smart grid – whether they have experienced a change in their utility’s ability to deliver these benefits over the past five years.

Compared to 5 years ago...

Overall, consumers reported improvements across all three value proposition categories, with nearly a third of consumers reporting improvements in their utilities’ environmental performance and accuracy in estimating outage restoration times. These results line up with smart grid benefits that our research shows consumer say are most important to them: 

  1. That reducing greenhouse gasses and other pollution by enabling greater use of renewables is most important and
  2. Saving money by providing additional information and rate plans.
  3. Reliability is vital to consumers and as the smart grid grows we continue to see an upturn in reliability. During Hurricane Sandy, 130,000 homes regained power after only two days. This is drastically quicker than previous incidents of that magnitude.

The more consumers know about the smart grid and smart meters the more the energy providers will be urged to adopt grid modernization into the grid. While consumer benefits are clear, getting that knowledge to consumers is the critical missing link to broad consumer support and engagement.

To learn more about the smart grid and smart meters and how to advocate for wider use of these technologies, take a closer look at our Consumer Value Proposition here.

By Nathan Shannon | May 4, 2015

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