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Smart Grids - Consumer Issues

Unfortunately the customer has been something of an afterthought in the development of smart meters and smart grids, and the industry is paying dearly for that oversight.

The Netherlands parliament has simply forbidden the rollout of the so-called smart meters. In the USA customer groups have successfully brought lawsuits against electricity companies that are rolling out smart meters and charging customers for it. In the State of Victoria in Australia the Auditor General stepped in, with similar results.

What this tells us is that there is very little interest among the customers in smart grids and smart meters. Simply because the industry has failed to tell them what is in it for them. If the industry had had a smart grid vision instead of a smart meter vision they would have been able to tell their customers that they would provide them with tools that would enable them to manage their energy use better – and that this would save energy and therefore lower the costs, to such an extent that it could even lead to a neutral outcome in relation to the ever-increasing electricity prices.

Instead their smart meter ‘vision’ was simply based on an internal strategy that would allow them to shave off peak demand, through tariff systems.

The impact of higher energy prices is often overlooked in relation to the most vulnerable members of society. Although solutions can be found – and in our view, without too much cost – so far these consumer issue have been largely ignored.

Latest developments:

The benefits of smart energy solutions have not been well communicated to consumers; consumers have either been given irrelevant information or no information at all; the industry now has to attempt to improve the image of its various offerings and breadth of communication.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Baltimore Gas & Electric Company (BGE).

1. Synopsis
2. Customers needs to become central
2.1 Customer engagement
2.2 What’s in it for the customer?
2.3 Social and economic benefits
2.4 Privacy issues
2.5 Technology concerns
2.6 Safety issues
2.7 Vulnerable consumer groups
2.8 IBM survey reveals a lack of consumer understanding
2.8.1 Missing the consumer education target
2.9 Ernst and Young survey finds customer relationship needs work
2.10 Start of a long process
3. Brief case study: BGE smart grid services
3.1 Overview of PeakRewards Program
3.2 Benefits
3.2.1 Lower energy bills
3.2.2 Reliability
3.2.3 Enhanced service
3.2.4 Environmental
3.2.5 Resource conservation
3.3 Smart Grid project approved
4. Smart appliances
5. Related reports
List of Tables
Table 1 - Percentage of respondents that rank specific risks related to smart meters and energy data collection in their top three concerns
Table 2 - Percent of respondents who do not know the answer to the specified question or statement

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