March 02, 2010
| by Steven Castle
More good news and not-so-good news about consumer attitudes toward energy-efficiency initiatives—this time in regard to the smart grid. The good news: Consumers on the whole seem to want to save energy. The not-so-good news: Many are still largely ambivalent and unknowledgeable about how.
That’s the result of a Harris Poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010, by Harris Interactive. Here are some of the numbers:
- Two thirds of Americans have never heard the term Smart Grid (68 percent), and 63 percent have not heard of Smart Meter.
- A majority of U.S. adults (57 percent) are aware of how much electricity they are consuming, and an even greater number (67 percent) say they would reduce their usage if they had visibility to it.
- Consumers could be charged a cost per kilowatt that varies depending on the cost to produce. If this type of pricing replaces the current flat rate charged, 75 percent of Americans “want to be able to see and control how much electricity” they are using.
- Consumers are unsure about what makes upgrades to the electric system necessary or advantageous. Two in five (42 percent) Americans were unable to outright agree or disagree with the statement, “The electricity system is fine the way it is and Smart Grid is not necessary.” When asked about the impact of Smart Grid on the security, reliability, and increased renewable sources of energy on the electric system, at least one-half of Americans expressed uncertainty. However, those familiar with Smart Grid are more likely to see positive impacts than those who are unfamiliar.
- Those familiar with Smart Grid are more likely to believe that the cost of electricity will increase once it is deployed (51 percent) than those who have not heard of Smart Grid (39 percent). They are also more willing to pay a 10 percent premium on their electric bill now for the future benefits (22 percent vs. 11 percent).
The combination of low awareness and the massive amount of investment dollars going into upgrades to the system present utility companies with the perfect opportunity to begin educating consumers, Harris says. “While the need for and benefits of Smart Grid and Smart Meter may seem obvious to industry insiders, this is not the case with consumers. In light of the huge investments about to be made that ratepayers will ultimately be responsible for, utility companies need to formulate, test, and launch a sustained communication strategy,” says Tish Pasqual, Senior Research Director, Harris Interactive Business and Industrial, Harris Interactive.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates