If consumers don’t understand the Smart Grid, can utilities sell it?

I believe the Smart Grid is an eventuality. It may come with or without fanfare, it may be accepted begrudgingly or met with whole hearted resistance, it may even be greeted with open arms by some, but of this I am sure, for it succeed as utilities want, the utilities have to step up and educate their communities about what it is, what it means and what it does and doesn’t do.

I’ve talked to a number of homeowners and I’d like to offer three very different perspectives on what they think the Smart Grid is and what it means to them.

Laura, John and Family

With three kids, this affluent family runs a lot of electricity. TV, lights, video games, hot water and appliances not to mention the array of mobile devices and laptops are always being charged. When I asked them if they had heard of the Smart Grid they said they had not, when I explained what it was and what it could do and how it could even help them manage their electricity consumption to save money, they thought it sounded great that they could be “green”.  LOL

My Parents

This is a tough one. My parents are die-hard Rhode Islanders, and they’re republicans. My dad is a blue collar guys who feels the sun sets based on what Rush Limbaugh says. My mom is an MBA with a high profile job. They simply do not get that there is a problem and a need for energy conservation; my dad thinks he’ll be dead by the time it matters. Either way there is no way he is going to let the government control how much electricity he can and can’t use. No way no how, not going to happen. SIGH

Craig and Kelli

An engaged couple living in their first house, they are trying to save enough money to pay for half their wedding and honeymoon. Constantly worried about their monthly bills, the economy has taken a toll on both their incomes. They realize that spending less means doing without or cutting back. Neither had heard of the Smart Grid, but knows about the local wind power project. When I asked if they use a device that helped that understand how they could save money by reducing their electricity they loved the idea.

So of all three homeowners, none of them had heard of the Smart Grid. None of them know about the efforts and grant money National Grid has applied for to bring two-way meters to New England. If National Grid wants this deployment to succeed, they and utilities like them, have to look to driving awareness around this project. If people in neighborhoods think that this about government control, people will not cooperate and the project will fail. If homeowners are not excited about using energy management devices then they simply won’t use them. And if they don’t use them than this was for nothing.

Utilities should look at three approaches to building community support for Smart Grid roll outs:

  1. Social Media: Using Twitter and Facebook, utilities should look to top utility heavyweights like Duke and Nashville Electric Service both of whom have active grassroots campaigns designed to build followers, engage their customers and communicate everything from outages to demand response events.
  2. Town Hall Events: Just like the Presidential campaign, utilities can invite key stakeholders like government officials, industry experts and community members to question and answer events designed to educate and enthuse the public for the coming Smart Grid deployment.
  3. Demo Center: National Grid (and others) should create a demo center where the public is invited to come see what the meters will look like, how they will work and again, educate the users on how this will function in their home when a conservation event occurs or if they want to reduce their energy bills.

These are just some early suggestion, there are obviously other options such as trade shows, literature, a solid grassroots PR campaign and of course advertising, but education will be the key to public awareness and acceptance of the Smart grid and must be done at a local level not by the federal government.

Hmmm, I wonder if Caster can help National Grid?

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

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