Blog Post

The Smart Grid Industry's Answer to the Consumer Problem

The disgruntled backlash over the installation of smart meters in a couple communities in the U.S. (currently Bakersfield, Calif., and Dallas, Texas) has rattled utilities, tech vendors and smart grid startups. In an attempt to start to create a better way to communicate with and educate consumers about smart grid technology, companies and utilities plan to launch the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) on Tuesday.

The group, made up of 10 founding companies including IBM (s IBM), Control4, the Gridwise Alliance, and General Electric (s GE) and led by Executive Director of the SGCC Jesse Berst, will hold a call on Tuesday to explain the purpose and goals of the group. Susan Cashen, VP Marketing of Control4, who was instrumental in organizing the group, explained to me in a call last week that the SGCC formed because there’s been so much attention on getting the technology installed and integrating systems, but little on how to work with consumers. “The purpose of the group to shine a spotlight on the consumer,” said Cashen.

The SGCC will share resources, conduct in-depth consumer-focused research, and build a tool set for how to message, educate and communicate with consumers about smart meters and the smart grid, said Cashen. “What’s going to happen if consumers reject this new tech? If they say no, then collectively we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” said Cashen.

The project is sorely needed. A recent IDC Energy Insight report found that utilities, “have not thought through the implications of new technology and products on customer relationships or the business process.” Basically utilities are not at all prepared for the increased amount of communication, education and interactivity that will be required from installing new smart grid technology.

And as more consumers resist smart meter rollouts, the protesters are becoming organized. A group near Dallas, Texas called the Smart UR Citizens — whose members describe themselves as “a group of Texas citizens that are fighting the unrealistic utility charges which we believe are caused by the Smart Meter” — have launched a new web site, an online petition, an intro video and an online survey, and are inviting community members to submit videos and comments about their experiences.

For related research on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Smart Meters: Time for a Customer Service Reboot

The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps

Image courtesy of Control4.

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