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Smart grids: the consumer perspective

The development of smart grids promises to give consumers more control over their energy bills, as well as encouraging small-scale home-based renewable energy installations. But how do customers feel about smart grids, and how are they impacting ratepayers’ relationships with their utilities? To find out, we speak to Patty Durand, president and CEO of the US-based Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

In the US, smart grid development remains highly uneven; looking at the GridWise Alliance’s annual Grid Modernisation Index, there are acres of open space between the most proactive states (including California, Texas and Illinois) and those languishing at the bottom of the table, such as Rhode Island, Nebraska and North Dakota.

In this context, perhaps it’s unsurprising that so many Americans are unaware that the smart grid revolution is even happening. According to research by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), an Atlanta-based non-profit focused on educating the public about grid modernisation, only around a quarter of American consumers have some awareness of smart grid technology. Much of the SGCC’s research from 2016 was collated in its 2017 State of the Consumer report.

So how can consumer awareness of and engagement with smart grids be boosted, and what can electrical utilities learn about marketing and communications – not the power industry’s traditional strong suit by any stretch of the imagination – to get to know their customers’ values and, in turn, include them in new grid modernisation efforts? We spoke to SGCC president and CEO Patty Durand to find out.

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