Utility customers warming to smart meters

The percentage of consumers who have “favorable” or “very favorable” attitudes toward smart meters has increased over the last few years, according to Navigant Research.

Smart grid rollouts continue in the U.S., albeit at a pace slower than in previous years. Utilities and vendors are now in a period of looking for ways to maximize the impact of these deployments, through demand response (DR) programs, home energy management (HEM) bundles and smart thermostats.

Consumer resistance to smart meter-enabled technologies, however, has been an obstacle.

“While smart grid favorability has held steady year over year, in the 36 percent to 37 percent range, smart meter favorability has increased from 37 percent, in 2010, to 43 percent in 2013,” says Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “This result indicates that initial concerns over privacy regarding smart meters in homes are dissipating — but utilities still have some distance to go in building majority support for these technologies.”

DR programs, which allow a utility to remotely control energy consumption — for example, by slightly increasing the thermostat setting for homes or businesses on hot days — have the benefit of taking pressure off the grid, and provide cost savings for the consumer as a result of lower energy consumption.

While this may seem like a win-win proposition, the survey results indicate that consumer interest in DR programs is not very strong. Less than 30 percent of respondents say they are “extremely interested” or “very interested” in adopting such arrangements.

The study is derived from a web-based consumer survey of 1,084 consumers in the U.S. that aims to provide a better understanding of widespread interest and attitudes toward a select group of smart grid concepts. The study was executed in the fall of 2013 using a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample. It analyzed the dynamics of consumer demand, favorability and attitudes toward several key smart grid product and service categories: smart grids and smart meters, smart thermostats, HEM bundles and DR.

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