Smart grid technologies offer exciting possibilities for electricity system stakeholders. For electric utilities and electricity system operators, they provide tools to address peak demand, to improve system reliability, and to manage distributed generation and energy storage technologies. For consumers, smart grid technologies can provide new opportunities to manage electricity use, to control bills, and to sell power back to the grid.
However, utilities now realize that consumers won’t automatically understand and accept smart grid technology. Furthermore, they understand that they can only gain consumers’ support and active participation if they create a positive “customer experience” at all stages of technology deployment.
The report, Smart grid consumer engagement, explores the new approach to consumer engagement – one that puts customers first. It provides specific examples of how utilities are:
- Understanding and responding to consumers’ needs;
- Providing a new era of customer centric programs and services;
- Taking consumer concerns seriously; and
- Using the smart grid to build relationships.
San Diego Gas and Electric gave prominent environmental organizations small grants to provide smart grid and electricity system education on its behalf. These credible organizations helped to increase smart grid knowledge and support. According to San Diego Gas and Electric:
Utilities can’t do this alone. We need multiple partners to help educate consumers.
Powershift Atlantic worked to achieve a whole new level of communication for its load shifting project. Armed with the results of market research, it developed simple visual diagrams to help consumers understand the project and its benefits. Powershift Atlantic tested and re-tested communication materials so that the messages “stuck”. According to Powershift Atlantic:
The customer doesn’t need us. We need the customer. Marketing firms aren’t cheap, but if we’re going to build a virtual power plant, we have to spend money on the social license to proceed.
Commissioned by Natural Resources Canada, the project is an initiative of the Electricity Grid Working Group of the U.S. Canada – Clean Energy Dialogue, put in place to enhance information sharing and technical collaboration. The report was developed through secondary research and interviews with representatives of North American utilities, and is intended for use by utilities, regulators, and other smart grid stakeholders.