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Consumers central to smart grid success

By Max Burkhalter
July 2, 2012
Smart grid technologies are a revolutionary step forward for the energy grid. The technology introduces major changes in how utility companies and consumers handle electricity distribution. Because of this, changes will not just happen within isolated grid environments. Instead, meters at people's homes will have to adjusted and consumer applications for smart grid use will likely come into play. Because consumers play such a prominent role in the smart grid's future, integrating social concepts into the utility setup is becoming a priority for many vendors, Forbes reported.

The news source explained that the ongoing success of smart grid deployments will be highly dependent on how consumers receive the technology and adapt to how it changes their power use practices. To achieve meaningful user interaction with smart grid systems, utility providers will likely increase their integration with social tools.

According to the news source, social tools are built around using networking technologies to keep people connected through web portals that collect data and help them interact with friends. At first glance, this information may not be overly important, but consumers increasingly chart their day-to-day lives on social media, using that data to interact with peers, companies and family. Over time, the data gathered in these systems can be extremely valuable for a variety of organizations, including utility providers who can, with consumer consent, identify power usage trends based on when people are usually home and other day-to-day activities. When this data interacts with real-time power delivery information through the smart grid, the potential for integration and consumer-focused power delivery solutions grows considerably.

Smart grid has the potential to offer an unprecedented level of control over electricity delivery from the consumer perspective. This can lead to sustainability gains, more efficient power systems within utility networks and a more stable grid that is prepared for usage spikes and other shifts in power distribution.

Because smart grids can offer so much to consumers, the technology will be somewhat limited if customers are not well informed about the technology and given accessible applications to take advantage of it. Because of this, many experts agree that this year will be marked by many smart grid projects switching away from initial infrastructure investments and spending on programs to help consumers understand the benefits of the technology and take full advantage of what it has to offer.

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