It’s a generally accepted belief that people tend to be wary of things that are unfamiliar to them, so it would make sense this behavior would extend to the smart grid and smart meters, a relatively new trend in an industry on which most consumers are not educated. A new study found people who aren’t familiar with the smart grid and smart meters tend to like the concepts when informed.

“It is hard to know whether you support something you know little or nothing about, and that is where most people are with regard to smart grid/meters,” said Jack Lloyd, vice president in the energy division at Market Strategies International. “However, as soon as we give them basic information, the concepts sound appealing.”

The 2011 E2 (Energy + Environment) Study, conducted biannually by Market Strategies International, is intended to assess Americans’ attitudes and opinions of a variety of energy-related issues, and the first wave of this study delivered both good and bad news.

“The good news is that a large majority of Americans—after we give them basic information about smart grid and smart meters—say it’s a priority issue and strongly support the implementation of these technologies by utilities,” Lloyd said. “The bad news is that 72 percent of consumers overall admit they know little about the technologies. Less than a quarter of respondents say they fully understand
the concept.”

Market Strategies conducted the study in an online, opt-in format, which, according to Lloyd, enabled the firm to present more graphically detailed information than traditional, over-the-phone methods. It also enabled Market Stategies to give respondents a basic understanding of the benefits of the smart grid and smart meters, including the ability to detect system overloads and reroute power automatically, the potential to help consumers save money by keeping them informed of their energy use, and the possibility of time-of-use pricing, which would enable utilities to change rates as demand and costs fluctuate.

According to Lloyd, even though the smart grid and meters have become hotter topics in the media and other outlets, customer awareness has remained flat over the past several years. The findings of the study, where the majority of informed customers support smart grid and meter development, predicts future success for the market.

“Electrical contractors should be investigating opportunities to profit from these new technologies by installing energy management networks that will use the continuous flow of energy consumption and cost information from smart meters to help homeowners and businesses manage energy more efficiently and save money,” he said. “This will likely be a growth area for tech-savvy electrical contractors over the next several decades—new construction and retrofit.”