Consumers still don’t understand the smart grid

In the UK the government is undertaking one of the largest rollouts of smart meters, installing over 50 million in UK homes and businesses by 2020.

This enormous undertaking is expected to cost in the region of £11 billion and as various trials have taken place across the country press coverage has snowballed, typically discussing the pros and cons of the project and whether there are savings to be made by the consumer.

Yet a recent survey, conducted on the behalf of Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity International by the NAHB Research Centre, reported that most consumers (70%) who were aware of smart grid technology feel that they only somewhat understand how it works. In addition, only 43% of all consumer respondents indicated that they knew what smart grid technology is – although respondents from upper middle and high income segments showed a greater awareness (63% and 57% respectively).

There is still a long way to go when it comes to educating the consumer about the smart grid. The government should take a certain degree of responsibility to this end as the smart grid is being pushed to the consumer rather than occurring as a result of a particular want or pull from the market.

The consumer will benefit from the smart grid, but on the whole those benefits will come about from a change in attitude and behaviour, so they will need to be convinced of its benefits before they are persuaded to change their ways.

It would seem that this process will take a bit longer, as companies will start targeting consumers with advertising for smart grid enabled technologies after smart meters are established in the home, whether that be product manufacturers promoting the benefits of a washing machine that can be programmed to run on only an off-peak tariff, or a Utility company offering a new demand-based tariffs.

Kevin Meagher is CEO at Intamac Systems. Kevin is a chartered engineer with an MBA who has become recognised as one of the global pioneers of the connected home. Formerly a group captain in the Royal Air Force, he opted for a dramatic career change when he saw how a new generation of Web-based platforms could be used to monitor and control devices in the home. He founded Intamac in 2001 to exploit the technology and launch a range of new value-added services for the mass market. Kevin remains keen on sports and plays squash, golf and soccer – when anyone will have him in the team.