Consumer understanding and acceptance of the Smart Grid, a modernized system of distributing electricity to consumers using digital communication between suppliers and consumers to create efficiencies and conserve resources, remains one of the biggest obstacles to full implementation, according to a survey conducted by the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP).

In the survey, conducted among professionals in the energy efficiency sector of the industry, 95 percent of the respondents said that the consumer does not understand what is meant by the term “Smart Grid.” Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of the respondents reported that Smart Grid technology can be used to significantly lower electricity consumption, and consequently, electric bills.

“Clearly there is a lot of confusion about what is meant by the term Smart Grid,” said Meg Matt, CEO of AESP. “That means we need to do a better of job of explaining what the Smart Grid is – and isn’t. The Smart Grid is important not only for enhancing energy efficiency, but for ensuring reliable delivery of energy to the consumer in the near- and long-term future, as the existing power grid continues to age and as demand increases.”

Smart meters, which monitor and communicate consumer usage and are currently in use through many utilities across the country, are a first step toward implementation of the smart grid and are the most visible interface with consumers. But resistance to smart metering remains high, according to the survey, and presents a challenge to bringing online the more sophisticated back-end less visible elements of the Smart Grid, including comprehensively digitizing the electricity delivery system.

More than half the respondents (51 percent) reported in the survey that “customer resistance to smart metering technology will be a significant factor in slowing implementation of the Smart Grid.” However, 68 percent reported that customers concerns about the smart grid, which range from privacy issues to radiation, are not justified.

Nearly all of the respondents (88 percent) reported that the Smart Grid was either “vital to the future” or “mostly necessary” for the future reliability of the energy supply system.