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State and local governments might be able to incentivize smart grid rollouts, but it will ultimately be up to the consumer to adopt technologies that will help save energy and money. To make sure that happens, utilities will need to do a better job of educating consumers and also give them the tools they need. That’s the key takeaway from a discussion on what clean technology means for the consumer at GigaOM’s Green:Net conference.
“A huge part of the problem is not that we use a lot of energy, but that we use a lot of energy at the wrong time,” Control4 CEO Will West said. To create more efficient energy usage and lower prices for everyone, utilities are working to create incentives and penalties for energy usage based on time of day. But to do so, those utilities will need to get their customers onboard.
“Customers want to save money… and the utilities are looking for efficiencies in running their own systems,” Alex Laskey, president and founder of OPOWER, said. “But moving customers to time-of-use tariffs is not just a case of getting past the public utilities commissions, but also getting customers to opt in to those tariffs.” Ultimately, both agreed that it comes down to educating customers to ensure that they understand the benefits of smart grid technology and new pricing models.
Laskey pointed out that California has done a good job of flatlining energy consumption while other parts of the country are seeing dramatic per-capita increases in usage. But despite the work that has been done by the state government, West believes that the next round of innovation will come from utilities interacting directly with customers.
“We should be grateful for California and the utilities here leading out with smart grid. But interestingly, taking it to the next level is probably going to happen more in places where there’s deregulation and they’re playing directly to the consumer. And the consumer is going to pull this through,” West said.