Cleaner Power and Smart Grid Requires Clear Sales Pitch for Consumers

Cleaner Power, Smarter Grids: David Crane, NRG Energy, and Eric Dresselhuys, Silver Spring Networks at Green:Net 2011The future of the power grid is combining clean energy together with the intelligence of the smart grid. But kickstarting that convergence is going to require a good amount of salesmanship to convince consumers of the benefit.

That’s the word from David Crane, CEO and President of NRG Energy and Eric Dresselhuys, executive vice president and CMO of Silver Spring Networks, who spoke today at GigaOM’s Green:Net conference about the challenges ahead for power grid of the future. Crane, whose company is a major power provider that is increasingly taking on more renewable energy projects, said it comes down to helping consumers conceptualize energy and how it can be better managed.

“We have to all face that we’re selling a product that the American consumer can’t see — and can’t even touch — and has difficulty conceptualizing,” Crane said. “We need to find a product that appeals to the American consumer inside the house and link it back to this virtuous cycle.”

For NRG, that product is electric vehicles. Crane is incredibly upbeat on their potential and said the company has set up free “freedom charging” stations for plug-in vehicles in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, TX to help educate people about the importance of clean power. He said electric vehicles can provide that breakthrough for smart grids by showing people the ways they can manage their power consumption and save money.

Dresselhuys, the EVP of smart grid networking and application provider Silver Spring Networks, agreed that it’s important to take the time to sell consumers on smart grid technology. He said users can develop a backlash to products like smart meters when the benefits are not as obvious to them. But he said there have been plenty of successful deployments of smart meters in places like Oklahoma and Ohio, not known for being green hotbeds.

“I think people get it if we take the time to explain it and show them where it takes us,” he said.

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