The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative has announced the organization’s first qualitative research initiative. This research is focused on understanding how the electric industry and consumers can successfully communicate as smart meters and other smart grid products such as in-home displays are introduced.

A January 2010 poll by The Harris Group shows that two-thirds of consumers are not aware of smart grid technologies that will allow two-way communication between utilities and consumers. These technologies will likely produce a sea change in utility-consumer relationships and how consumers control energy use in their homes.

The Cadmus Group Inc. is conducting the focus groups in California, Michigan, and Georgia to gather a full spectrum of consumer concerns and benefits about the consumer side of smart grid. Consumers will also advise on what they want and need to know about these technologies and on how to work with them during this significant transition. The research will guide the development of future quantitative research. Initial results are expected to be announced later this year.

Since its inception earlier this year, the SGCC has focused on increasing industry’s understanding of consumers as well as increasing consumer understanding of the smart grid. One way in which the organization approaches this challenge is through research. Jointly designed and financed by all key stakeholders in the smart grid ecosystem, including utilities, vendors, and consumer groups, the SGCC’s new qualitative research initiative will gather information that will enable a collaborative and mutually supportive approach to the smart grid.

The project is being led by the Cadmus Group in partnership with human factor experts from the University of Colorado and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Focus groups will help define relevant consumer segments and identify the unique needs and concerns of each subgroup, creating baseline of insight and vocabulary to help various constituencies work together on shared goals. The findings of this qualitative study will also serve as a guide for future quantitative research.