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Summary:

According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent of Americans haven’t even heard of the smart grid. And without a sense of how the smart grid and an ecosystem of devices, apps and services help consumers save money on electricity, the whole concept remains an abstraction. The challenge therefore is not merely to prepare consumers for the smart grid’s arrival, but to make the wait unbearable.

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC) launch at DistribuTECH this week marked a significant milestone in the industry’s battle to win over consumers, many of whom are none too happy with their smart meters. The group’s priorities suggest some real desire to do better: consumer research, outreach and the deployment of smart grid tech in a way that involves consumers.

But the coalition has its work cut out for it. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent of Americans haven’t even heard of the smart grid. And without a sense of how the smart grid and an ecosystem of devices, apps and services can help them save money on electricity, the whole concept remains an abstraction for most consumers. The challenge therefore is not merely to prepare consumers for the smart grid’s arrival, but to make the wait unbearable.

As I describe in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro today (sub. req’d), the only way the SGCC and its members will spark genuine enthusiasm from a disinterested populace and win over the hearts (and wallets) of consumers is to approach its mission with the same ferocity as smart meter opponents and doomsayers. It’s not to say that SGCC has to go on the offensive, but it does have to imbue its outreach with the same passion as a company launching a big, market-changing product in this day and age.

Fortunately, SGCC comes out of the gate with a founding-members roster that reads like a mini “who’s who” of smart grid players; heavyweights like GE and IBM are joined by startups like Silver Spring Networks and Ember as well as consumer-facing veterans like Best Buy and Control4. Not only do all of these organizations have a huge stake in improving the visibility, and the reputation, of the industry, many of them — particularly Best Buy, Control4 and GE’s appliances division — have significant expertise in marketing to consumers. Hopefully, they’ll put that expertise to work.

Read the full article here.

Image courtesy of B Tal’s photostream Flickr Creative Commons.

  1. I’m confused as well as many others as to how the smart grid/smart meters will help me directly. I know the standard answer is that it will help the elctric companies better control their product thusly lowering my electric bill (or even control my appliances by turning some off if smart appliances are used), but I am skeptical. The cost of the meters and devices spread along the grid has to be paid for by the customer. As far as the new meters etc. I’m aware they can show instantanious usage to the electric companies and if I purchase additional equipment I can monitor my usage. So it’s the middle of summer my A/C is operating, the wife is using the dish washer and the clothes dryer is in operation, do you think we will turn one of the devices off because the usage is high at that time,I don’t think so. I believe most of the pressure to accomplish these goals are brought on by the government liberally giving money to these companies to study and implement these actions, as an example many are getting monies for software app’s that will be of little help. I hope someone can direct me a better explanation on the net, I have seen many and none have convinced me.

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  2. @Jimr,

    I agree the messaging around smart meters and the smart grid hasn’t been so good. What utilities need is more automated applications like that of EcoFactor which can shave off energy use at peak times through a connected smart thermostat so that the consumer doesn’t notice a difference in temperature but so that they can save money on their monthly bill. The majority of consumers won’t spend any of their own time managing their energy consumption. Applications like this can offer real benefits to the consumer. Beyond that the reality is that utilities need a better and more efficient way to manage their electrical grids as the population grows and as they need to add clean power (many states have to meet state mandates).

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    1. People can be proactive now with the installation a whole house kvar unit,reducing waste energy that they have already paid for. Go to http://www.WeCgreen.net

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  3. [...] Making Smart Meters the Must-Have Gadget of the Year [...]

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  4. [...] Making Smart Meters the Must-Have Gadget of the Year [...]

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  5. [...] Making Smart Meters the Must-Have Gadget of the Year [...]

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  6. Until consumers can actually access the data from their smart meters, there’s no benefit to the consumer. Not only that, but the information has to be accessible and automated in a way that the layperson can take advantage of it. I agree with a lot of what Jimr says; but at this point the smart grid only benefits the utilities. What motivation do I have to encourage PG&E to install a smart meter at my house? I never see anything from it! And EcoFactor is on the right path but is way more complex than it needs to be: I’ll save more energy ($$) from turning off my thermostat when I’m not home (traveling) than from any other single activity.

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  7. I just discovered SGCC, and think it is something long overdue. One of the issues on which we’re seeing push-back from consumers (and we’re all consumers by the way) is the array of potential hazards related to information privacy and spoofing, for example. Hopefully, amid all of the smart grid hoopla, SGCC can address these and other developing issues. Reducing cost while increasing reliability (or quality) to the consumer is the objective function. Thanks to Pedro for his insights.

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