Consumers to Utilities: Control My Energy, Cut My Bill


There’s nothing philanthropic involved with consumers agreeing to manage — or give utilities control over — their home energy consumption. It’s all about saving money, according to a study released this morning from the tech consultants at Accenture (s ACN).

In a survey of 9,000 consumers, Accenture found that respondents were not willing to allow electricity providers to remotely curb use of their appliances as part of electricity management plans, “without significant rate discounts.” About half of the respondents would also not join an electricity management program if it would increase their electricity bill.

How much of a discount do they need to convince them to sign up for energy management that includes utility-control of appliances? The Accenture report found that while only 16 percent would get involved in such a program if there were no discounts, that percentage jumps to 24 if a 10 percent price discount is offered, and 35 percent if a price discount of 20 percent is offered.

Awareness of energy conservation programs, and the smart grid in general, for consumers is low across the board. Accenture found that 28 percent of respondents were not aware of programs to help them conserve energy. And only 29 percent of consumers would trust their electricity provider to advise them on energy conservation actions (trust levels are lower in deregulated markets and higher in regulated markets).

The findings are what many entrepreneurs, tech firms, investors and innovators have been repeating in the wake of the growing consumer backlash over the smart grid. Residents in Bakersfield, Calif., and Dallas, Texas, have filed lawsuits in response to smart meters that they claim have charged them much higher rates. In Victoria, Australia, policy-makers have placed a moratorium on time-of-use pricing after charity groups were worried that higher rates at certain times of day could disproportionately effect the most needy.

As Greg Guthridge, managing director of Accenture’s Utility Customer Care Practice, put it:

“[U]tilities must address consumer concerns about external control, privacy and lifestyle implications before broad-based adoption by consumers will occur. In the end, they need to articulate a simple and intuitive value-proposition that resonates with the end-consumer.”

To find more about how the consumer fits into the smart grid equation, come check out Silver Spring Network’s workshop at Green:Net, on April 29 in San Francisco. Utilities PG&E and OG&E will share what they’ve learned through their own rollouts of the Silver Spring Smart Home solution.

For more research on the smart grid and consumers check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Making Smart Meters the Must-Have Gadget of the Year

Smart Meters: Time for a Customer Service Reboot

Images courtesy of Accenture



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