The Consumer Pulse survey issued by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (see article and graph) showed that consumers see all seven of the listed benefits as more or less being equally great reasons to support smart grid deployment. For example, the numbers show that consumers consider the smart grid value in reducing their electric bill as important as its contribution to protecting the environment. In other words, consumers support the smart grid across the board.

That’s a warm, fuzzy conclusion but, unfortunately, it’s overly optimistic. More likely than not, the lack of differentiation between benefits is due to participants just checking off the boxes rather than any studied understanding.

A recent study by IBM determined that despite several years of smart grid promotion, the public has little understanding of the technology or its potential benefits. (see IBM Survey Reveals New Type of Energy Concern: Lack of Consumer Understanding) The report concludes: "There have been major strides with new energy saving technologies, new programs and incentives, but in many cases the market is seeing more confusion amongst consumers than expected," said Michael Valocchi, Vice President, Global Energy & Utilities Industry Leader for IBM Global Business Services. "This year's survey points to a need and an opportunity to go back to basics and educate consumers by using terms that they understand, behavioral triggers and channels they already use. People want to conserve energy; we just need to get better at showing them how."

Amen. In attempting to promote smart grid acceptance and deployment, let’s not gloss over the fact that most consumers don’t really have much of a clue about the technology or its capabilities.