Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Post # 78 - New Study Has Good and Bad News Regarding Consumers' Attitudes to the Smart Grid

A new study by Market Strategies International, a market research and consulting firm involved with communications, energy and technology issues, finds what it calls good and bad news when it comes to consumer awareness and support of smart grid technologies. In its release announcing the study's results, Market Strategies:
The good news is that a large majority of Americans -- after we give them basic information about smart grid and smart meters -- say it's a priority issue and strongly support the implementation of these technologies by utilities. The bad news is that 72 percent of consumers overall admit they know little about the technologies. Less than a quarter of respondents say they fully understand the concept.

These findings are from the first wave of Market Strategies' on-going 2011 E2 (Energy + Environment) Study. Conducted twice a year, the national survey is designed to gain an understanding of Americans' attitudes and opinions about energy and energy-related issues. The latest version represents the “tenth wave” of this on-going study. A total of 989 interviews were completed May 19 through June 2, 2011 with consumers nationwide. Respondents were recruited via an online panel to reflect key characteristics of the US population. The data were weighted by age, gender, and census region to match the demographics of the US population. (Market Strategies cautions that “due to its opt-in nature, an online panel does not yield a random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections.”).

The updated study finds the level of Americans' smart grid/meter awareness hasn't increased noticeably during the past several years, despite the steady flow of information appearing in media and other outlets. On the other hand, while “general awareness still lags,” Market Strategies believes that “the ready endorsement so many consumers give smart grid/meter -- once it's explained -- speaks volumes about the viability and strong appeal of the technologies and their associated benefits.” Moreover, Market Strategies believes that “it’s important to note that four of the five consumer segments in the energy market support the idea of utilities working quickly towards implementing smart grid/meter technologies." Further, the study finds that “nearly unanimous support for smart grid/meter coming from most of the market's various segments. . . .”

The overall study apparently is not publicly available, beyond what Market Strategies put in its release. Nonetheless, the findings certainly are consistant with with the conclusions of many other studies:
consumer education -- and, more importantly, consumers' belief they will significantly benefit -- will be essential to the ultimate success (or failure) of smart grid development.

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