Consumers’ Changing Views of Electric Power

I was in front of a number of utilities this week presenting my recent research on consumer attitudes about the smart grid. I can’t share the specifics of the research yet except to say that I’m starting to see signs that consumers’ attitudes toward energy in general and electricity in particular may be changing.

With smart meters on the road to near ubiquity, consumers are going to get used to having current information about their energy consumption and its cost. The Internet and mobile computing have habituated us to having all kinds of detailed information at our finger tips. There are some signs that we consumers expect to have rich information on hand to help us choose among the proliferating choices that are offered us. This will extend to the choices that will increasingly be offered to consumers in the electricity sector, ranging from time of use pricing and load shifting to demand response program participation.

I used to think that consumers could not be bothered to maintain awareness of the cost of electricity,much less how it might vary by time of day. But I think consumers will adapt. Smart meters, in-home energy displays, dynamic Web sites operated by their utilities, mobile-phone home energy apps–over time these things will become familiar to consumers. We will start to internalize and act on the pricing signals we are given. And utilities are starting to get savvier in their approach to understanding and marketing to consumers.

Everyone who drives a lot seems keenly aware of the current price of gasoline. There is ample evidence that swings in the price of gas have an impact on driving behavior. I can see the day when the same thing is true for the price of electricity. We consumers seem to want information to help us make informed decisions. The smart grid is going to make this information more readily available. And it’s going to begin to affect our behavior. For the good.

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Filed under energy prices, grid, in-home displays, smart meters

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