Utilities should seize the opportunity to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grid to their customers now, while they can still be quickly converted into advocates, according to a recent article by Phil Carson that asserts there continues to be “few consumer negatives around smart grid, which remains fuzzy.” Recent studies by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, the Brookings Institute, and Pike Research all support the idea that customers can be easily convinced that the benefits of smart grid are substantial.
“If after nearly two years of what appeared to be very negative media around smart meters and, to some degree, federally funded stimulus projects relating to the grid, there remains little awareness of those two topics, perhaps those making the noise have had little impact,” writes Carson as he describes the apparent lack of impact that critical messages have had on consumer perceptions of smart grid. “Unfortunately, that includes positive messages, presumably including utility-sponsored communication and education on the topic.”
According to a recent study by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, the two smart grid benefits that consumers find most compelling are more reliable service and increased use of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases. This conclusion is supported by another report from the Brookings Institute, which finds that there has been an increase in the number of Americans who believe that climate change is occurring. Finally, a survey by Pike Research also found strong support for renewable energy, with over half of respondents surveyed saying they have favorable views of solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles, electric cars and natural gas cars.
Utilities who wish to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grid to their customers should take note of these findings and incorporate messaging surrounding both environmental benefits and reliability into their efforts to motivate people to become advocates of the smart grid. Customer engagement is critical to the success of smart meter and other hardware deployment programs, as only people who understand the benefits of the new technology will be able to take full advantage of it, helping utilities to achieve results such as increased efficiency, reduced peak demand, and improved integration of renewable energy.
Carson concludes with a powerful statement urging utilities to act now in communicating the benefits of smart grid to customers. “It would be faulty logic to cite these results to justify continued lethargy in making the case for investments in grid modernization. People understand that investments in the grid could generate greater reliability and they’re aware of environmental drivers, including global warming. Complacency in the face of opportunity doesn’t strike me as much of a strategy.”
We agree that customers can and do care about energy use and environmental impact, making an effective customer engagement strategy essential for utilities who wish to realize the full benefits of smart grid deployment.