One of the primary goals of the smart grid movement is to empower consumers with greater control over their use of energy in the home. However, this objective has proven to be an elusive one for utilities and other key stakeholders in the industry, and the promise of the smart energy home remains largely unfulfilled. Many customers have been less enthusiastic about smart meters than the utilities originally anticipated, and in fact smart meters have been the subject of significant consumer opposition in some service territories.
Meanwhile, utilities and their vendors have struggled to identify the appropriate user experiences and business models for home energy management and smart energy devices. Most pilot programs in the United States have continued to operate at a small scale as stakeholders explore these issues, and a number of utilities are wrestling with the fundamental question of what their role will be in terms of providing energy services on the customer side of the meter.
Despite these industry challenges, consumers still display solid interest in the overall concept of home energy management and in using smart appliances, according to a new consumer survey published by Pike Research.
The survey found that 47% of consumers would be “extremely” or “very” interested in home energy management products and services that would allow them to monitor and control energy usage in their home, based on a general description of the concept provided in Pike Research’s questionnaire. Similarly, 45% of survey respondents stated that they would be interested in connected smart appliances that would help them manage their electricity consumption more efficiently.
“While consumers are less enthused about smart meters and demand response programs, our survey found that home energy management and smart appliances enjoy relatively strong levels of interest,” says vice president Bob Gohn. “As consumers became more familiar with smart meters, their favorable attitudes also increased, indicating that the utilities still have a public education challenge ahead of them.”
While many consumers have concerns about privacy issues related to the electric utility having “Big Brother” capabilities to monitor and control electricity usage in their homes, the most popular reason for an unfavorable opinion about smart meters, chosen by 57% of respondents, focused on costs: specifically, concerns that the devices would lead to an increase in electricity bills.