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Consumers need to be focal point of smart grid efforts

By Max Burkhalter
May 1, 2012
All of the investments utility providers are making on smart grid infrastructure could amount to little in terms of everyday gains for consumers if electric companies fail to educate customers on the technology. According to a recent study from PwC US, this is a very real problem for U.S. utility providers, as a lack of understanding about what smart grid can do for consumers is leading to slow adoption among customers.

The survey found that the lack of awareness could end up being a major roadblock to consumer smart grid adoption, as approximately 58 percent of respondents said they have either not heard of smart grid or have an extremely limited knowledge of what the technology actually is.

The lack of smart grid awareness is not accompanied by an indifference about the technology. At its core, smart grid's primary capability is to give individuals and utility companies more control over how they use power by providing them with real time data on energy use. The study found that there is significant interest in improving sustainability by gaining a better understanding of power use and a greater ability to generate power independently of the utility provider. Furthermore, research indicates a significant age disparity when it comes to smart grid interest.

The key to achieving the sustainability goals that are common between utility providers and customers is to reach out to consumers in an effort to make them more aware of smart grid offerings and partner with them to drive efficiency improvements, the news source said.

The ability to enable private energy generation could be an ideal result of smart grid solutions. The core problem with renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, is that they do not deliver electricity consistently enough to ensure that power will always be available. However, smart grid can attach homes to the traditional grid, but allow them to supplement that with their own wind turbine or solar generation technologies. This allows consumers to use renewable energy as much as possible, but tap into the grid whenever necessary. Essentially, smart grid enables seamless integration between renewable resources and the utility grid, which could allow for considerable efficiency gains for electric companies and consumers alike.

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