It’s likely most consumers have heard something about the “smart grid” by now, even if they don’t have a thorough understanding of what it means. For many homeowners, their first interaction with smart grid may come through a smart meter installed at their homes. These meters can transmit energy-use data to the utility, and can also provide for more detailed reports on when and how the home is using power. If consumers have access to this information in a meaningful way, they can then make choices about their ongoing energy consumption.

At least that’s the idea. But in practice, homeowners have sometimes received little additional information after their smart meter is installed. The data may feed back to the utility, but the consumer engagement part of the equation has occasionally been lacking.

In the U.S., it’s often largely up to the utility companies to decide how much information they will provide to consumers, and how they will receive it. The U.K. is working under a different model, and the government has recently announced some guidelines for how smart meters will be deployed.

Overall, IDC projects smart grid spending will increase 17.4% globally from 2010 to 2015, and overall spending will reach nearly $46.4 billion worldwide in 2015. The U.K. has said it plans to deploy smart meters in 30 million homes and small businesses by 2019. And the government is trying to make sure consumers receive information as a result of those rollouts.

Some of the guidelines set forth include requiring that households getting smart meters be offered an in-home display that allows them to see how much energy is being used and what it costs. Also, consumers would have a choice about who has access to their data, except for data which is needed for billing and meeting other regulatory obligations, typically on a monthly basis. Installers would also have to provide energy efficiency advice as part of the installation visit, and they would not be allowed to sell other services during the visit.

Whether or not you agree with the specifics of these guidelines, I think it’s admirable that the U.K. is making efforts to ensure consumers have access to smart meter data. If consumers don’t know how they are using energy, it will be more difficult for them to conserve, and I think we all agree conservation is important in order to keep overall energy costs down.

There will be lots more talk about energy at this year’s Connected World Conference, June 11-13. In particular, check out ‘San Leandro, Calif.: Smart City’ where we learn about the underlying infrastructure that makes things like the smart grid a reality. Check out the agenda to learn more about specific conference sessions.

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