Sunday, December 5, 2010

Post # 52 - Another Mixed Consumer Report Card for Smart Meters

Last week, the market research and consulting firm Pike Research announced the results of a survey focusing on consumer knowledge and acceptance of utility smart meter initiatives. The results – which Pike says are based on “a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 U.S. adults” – have both encouraging and discouraging aspects. In particularly, the survey suggests that consumer knowledge of smart meter issues generally increases acceptance.

On the positive side, Pike reports that that among respondents who said they were “extremely familiar” with smart meters, 67% stated that they had an “extremely” or “very” favorable opinion on the devices.

On the negative side, smart meters were the least popular of the four consumer smart grid concepts covered by the survey. Smart meters received a "favorability/interest" rating of only 29% . Other more popular concepts were home energy management (47%), smart appliances (44%), and demand response services (33%).

At the same time, and likely related to the results, 56% of survey respondents described themselves as “not very” or “not at all” familiar with smart meters. Increased consumer access to electricity usage information was identified as an important benefit by 52% of respondents, making this the most frequent benefit cited. Improved reliability of electricity service was second, with 46% of consumers identifying this benefit as important to them. The most popular reason for an unfavorable opinion about smart meters, chosen by 59% of respondents, focused on concerns that the devices would increase electricity bills.

Pike Research's summary of it survey can be found here. These results seem consistent with other consumer surveys discussed in this blog, see here, here and here. Once again, increased consumer education appears the key to smart meter acceptance. And not just education – consumers must see convincing evidence that can realistically expect to benefit financial from smart meters. It's not clear anyone has really made that case in a satisfactory way.

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