US: The numbers are different, but two smart grid consumer surveys agree on the bottom line: most consumers are still in the dark. An Itron-sponsored survey developed by Zpryme said 41 percent of its participants were aware of the smart grid to varying degrees, while a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) survey found that only 27 percent were aware of it.
However, It wasn’t all bad news the smart grid surveys. The Zpryme survey included a market forecast for utility enterprise and purpose-built systems that predicted US market value would grow from USD 4.2 billion in 2010 to USD 6.5 billion by 2015.
GIS plays a very pivotal role in the structure and functionality of smart grid. Utility operators need a GIS-based view of their utility in order to make the best decisions about key issues such as managing meters and customers and incorporating renewable energy. Field crews depend even more heavily on GIS for implementing an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and keeping current with data collection. Here is a video where Bill Meehan, Esri’s director of utility solutions, describes how GIS can help utilities embrace Smart Grid initiatives.
Commenting on survey results, Ben Arnold, senior research analyst for CEA, said, “There are no silver bullets to advancing energy management solutions and eventually creating a smart grid that will allow consumers to remotely monitor and control products and appliances in their home. Marketing efforts need to focus on the cost savings of these systems to get consumers’ attention, but at the same time, consumers must be willing to adjust their electricity consumption habits and invest in energy efficient technology.”
Both surveys found that most consumers are concerned about their energy use, but know little about emerging energy management systems, while others had invested in them. The Zpryme survey found some surprises in consumers’ motivation to watch their energy costs: 76.5 percent of survey respondents said rising gas prices made them more likely to pay more attention to their electric bills.
Another downside in the CEA survey was that consumers who enrolled in electricity management programmes weren’t seeing much difference in their bills – a few dollars at best. The survey said that clearly indicated a need for utilities, industry and government to further develop cost savings that would be truly meaningful to consumers.