Majority of Americans Do Not Understand Smart Grid Says New Survey
The U.S. electric industry faces an interesting challenge – more than three-quarters of Americans do not recognize or understand the industry's best available technologies to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy costs and curb global warming – the smart grid and smart meters.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans claim to know little or nothing about the smart grid, while 76 percent lack knowledge or understanding of smart meters, according to results of the latest Market Strategies International E2 (Energy + Environment) Study, a national survey designed to gain an understanding of American's attitudes and opinions about energy and energy-related issues.
However, the study also shows that Americans are supportive once the technologies have been explained to them.
75 percent feel implementing smart grid/smart meters should be a priority over the next one to five years
67 percent support their utilities implementing these technologies (when costs to consumers are estimated at $6-$10 per month). To underscore the support, the results vary only slightly at lower or higher monthly cost estimates.
"There are very clear benefits to these technologies," said Jack Lloyd, a vice president in the Energy Division at Market Strategies. "Still, the lack of knowledge of the smart grid and smart meters could hinder their implementation and delay the energy and environmental benefits they can provide," he said.
There remains room for education about both technologies. According to the survey:
34 percent see them as a means to provide detailed tracking of energy usage
7 percent see smart meters as a way to help consumers be more efficient users of electricity
2 percent see them as a way for utilities to overcharge customers.
"The evidence is clear. The electric industry must make smart grid and smart meter education a top priority if it hopes to implement the technologies successfully across the U.S.," said Lloyd.
This latest version represents the ninth wave of the long-term survey. For this most recent version, Market Strategies interviewed a national sample of 1,168 adults between Oct. 14 and Oct. 25,2010.
Respondents were recruited via an online panel to reflect key demographic characteristics of the U.S. population. The data also were weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity and census region to bring the sample into alignment with the U.S. Census.
Three leading meter manufacturers – Iskraemco, Itron and Landis+Gyr – have completed a testing phase that proves each firm’s smart meters are fully interoperable with meters built by the other two companies.
The move is a major development in the smart meter market, and stands to answer a call from the major utilities to provide universal definitions and communications standards.
Interfaces on the three companies’ smart meters allow customers to mix and match different suppliers and should boost the development of smart grid applications. The scope covers a full end-to-end solution, from the Home Area Network to the Wide Area Network and the interface to utilities existing IT infrastructure.
Iskraemeco, Itron and Landis+Gyr believe that the initiative paves the way towards the deployment of smart metering in line with the recently passed EU electricity market Directive, which dictates that 80% of EU households must be fitted with smart meters by 2020.
"The development of these interface specifications is important to the utility industry because it will allow for true interoperability and enable customers to invest with confidence" said Oliver Iltisberger, senior vice president Energy Management Units for Landis+Gyr.
"Up to now we were mainly engaged in defining standards. This additional effort is necessary to convert these standards into truly interoperable products."
To accelerate the objective, the companies have each started prototyping their application interface development in compliance with interoperable device interface specifications (IDIS) to be completed by the end of this year. This will facilitate the creation of a true plug-and-play environment for the future.
According to a former US Energy Department official, the advent of the smart grid has a particular application in the Middle East, where relatively new or non-existent infrastructure can be more easily renovated to include new technologies than elsewhere in the world.
A smart grid is a form of electricity network utilising digital technology. A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communications to control appliances at consumers' homes; this saves energy, reduces costs and increases reliability and transparency. It overlays the ordinary electrical grid with an information and net metering system, that includes smart meters. Smart grids are being promoted by many governments as a way of addressing energy independence, global warming and emergency resilience issues.
A smart grid is made possible by applying sensing, measurement and control devices with two-way communications to electricity production, transmission, distribution and consumption parts of the power grid that communicate information about grid condition to system users, operators and automated devices, making it possible to dynamically respond to changes in grid condition.
A smart grid includes an intelligent monitoring system that keeps track of all electricity flowing in the system. It also has the capability of integrating renewable electricity such as solar and wind. When power is least expensive the user can
allow the smart grid to turn on selected home appliances such as washing machines or factory processes that can run at arbitrary hours. At peak times it could turn off selected appliances to reduce demand.
Other names for a smart grid (or for similar proposals) include smart electric or power grid, intelligent grid (or intelligrid), futuregrid, and the more modern intergrid and intragrid.