Getting Smart about Smart Grid

9/19/2012

The smart grid concept has been around for a while now, but are consumers taking advantage of the technology? Research has shown homeowners often have a low level of awareness regarding what the smart grid is and how it can benefit them. But utilities seem to be catching on to the need for education in the market, rolling out interesting new programs to boost awareness.

Smart grid is a technology that looks like it’s here to stay. Smart-meter rollouts continue across the country, collecting energy data and transmitting it back to a central location for analysis. All this data is creating the need for additional services around the smart grid, and Pike Research, www.pikeresearch.com, recently said the high data volume flowing into utilities will lead to the worldwide market for smart grid data analytics growing steadily through 2020.

But while utilities are coming up with ways to use the data, consumers may be a bit more puzzled. An April survey from PwC, www.pwc.com, indicated 58% of Midwestern customers had not heard of smart grid technology, and those who had believed they had very limited knowledge of the opportunities the technology offered.


Utilities have been criticized in the past for not doing enough to help consumers understand the smart grid, and it seems some companies are now trying to provide ways for people to engage with their energy use while perhaps even having some fun at the same time.

For example, ComEd, www.comed.com, unveiled a set of digital games aimed at helping consumers understand the smart grid and their own energy consumption. Available online, a game called “Smart Home” allows players to learn about the energy required to power household devices, as well as how smart meters can contribute to managing energy use. ComEd says it plans to install approximately four million new smart meters across its service territory throughout the next 10 years. The meters will work with in-home display units to allow homeowners to view realtime energy use.

Another game called “Power On!” helps players learn about smart-meter installation. Players manage teams of utility workers as they make equipment upgrades to the electric grid. ComEd says the game is similar to real upgrades being performed throughout northern Illinois.

In the U.K., one utility is allowing consumers to interact with the company via their smartphones. EDF Energy, www.edfenergy.com, offers an app that allows customers to submit meter readings using their smartphones’ camera. While the process is manual, it shows the ways utilities are striving to better connect with consumers and make technology useful for them.

Customers simply snap a photo of their meter, showing the reading, and send it to EDF Energy, where their account will be automatically updated to reflect the photo. Customers can also receive tips and advice on how to lower energy usage through the app.

As consumers learn more about smart grid technology, they can make better use of the data becoming available to them through smart meters.






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