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