Image via GreenMonk
With consumers only just starting to hear the term "smart grid," let alone trust utilities as they install millions of smart meters in homes nationwide, we're used to hearing stories about how consumers are pushing back against companies like PG&E; during smart meter installation, reporting higher bills thanks to the new meters, or fretting about potential security or privacy breeches. That's why it's encouraging to see something positive -- GE's latest US Consumer Impressions of the Smart Grid survey, which shows that over all, Americans are very positive about the technology and its potential to help the energy grid, if they understand what the smart grid is in the first place.
The new survey reports that 96% of Americans who know what the smart grid is are positive about the potential of the technology, 80% of Americans are looking forward to the smart grid so that we can use more renewable energy, 74% recognize that the smart grid means having information to make better decisions about energy use, and 63% believe the smart grid means more new jobs in the energy sector.
Those are some excellent numbers that gives the smart grid a little boost for its git-a-long. And companies like GE and Cisco, who are investing major money in the smart grid and transitioning significant portions of their business to focus on grid technology, have a lot at stake when it comes to consumer trust and national adoption of the smart grid.
Tom Raftery of GreenMonk writes that during a follow-up conversation with Luke Clemente, general manager of Metering and Sensing Systems for GE's Digital Energy business, Clement stated that one of the most important issues that needs to hit mainstream awareness is the cost in generating electricity at peak times. More consumers need to understand that it is more expensive to generate electricity in the middle of the day than in the middle of the night. The smart grid and real time information about energy cost and usage is elemental in giving customers that information, and studies show that when we have it, we make the changes.
Raftery writes, "Utility companies need to beware that they don't squander this goodwill - right now it is theirs to lose."
And indeed it is a fragile goodwill. Everything from security of personal information to the health impacts of smart meters themselves is being called in to question as smart meters make their way into homes. That's why the mantra for the smart grid must be "distributed, voluntary, collaborative" as pointed out by Vint Cerf, "father of the Internet."
Earth2Tech points us to a video clip of Cerf at a conference earlier this year, where he stated that a functional smart grid network that has consumers onboard is dependent on "people's willingness to connect in this way," and "this is not going to be something that can be forced on anyone no matter how hard we try."
GE's survey shows that the trust of consumers is gained when they have a full understanding of how the smart grid works and the potential it holds for solving some major problems with our overconsumption of energy. However, both the education of and collaboration with consumers are vital if utilities expect a smooth transition.
Here are the video clips of Cerf on the Smart Grid:
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