Most utility customers have never heard of a smart meter. Of those that have, barely half can identify the correct definition when it’s presented to them and more than 10% believe it is a device that allows utilities to monitor customer movements inside their homes.

These are just several findings uncovered by Chartwell in a recently completed Smart Grid Energy Survey of 1500 utility customers from the United States and Canada. The survey marks the launch of Chartwell’s Smart Grid Customer Engagement Research Council, a utility-only group tasked with helping utilities better understand their customers as they implement behind-the-meter smart grid applications. Smart grid technologies will require massive investments of time and money. Much of those resources will be directed at choosing technologies that maximize utility investments, while significantly cutting energy demand. For this to work, however, utilities must forge wholly interactive relationships with their customers. “Smarter grids will require smarter customers,” says Philip I. Dunklin, president of Chartwell Inc. “This research council will help utilities collaborate and learn from each other as they work to engage customers for a successful launch of the hundreds of smart grid implementations recently jumpstarted by federal stimulus funds.” Chartwell’s Smart Grid Customer Engagement Research Council will help utilities better reach and educate their customers by answering the following questions as well as many others:
  • How much do customers already know about energy and the smart grid?
  • What are their perceptions and motivating factors?
  • What type of smart grid and energy reducing technologies most appeal to customers and vice versa?
  • How do utilities connect with different customer segments?
  • What will be biggest obstacles to customers adopting behind-the-meter smart grid technologies?
  • How do customers perceive their electric utilities and can greater trust be established?
The Smart Grid Energy Survey is just the first step. Moving forward, Chartwell will conduct qualitative and quantitative research, including targeted customer surveys, focus groups, and other end-user interviews. Group members will ultimately direct the research based on their needs. The Council also will bring together key utility stakeholders involved in smart grid technology selection, customer education, research and marketing. Group members will share their practices and lessons learned. Chartwell, which has covered smart metering and utility marketing programs since the evolution of modern smart grid technologies began, will facilitate interaction and conduct the research.