Currently, many people around the world still don’t understand even the basics of how electricity is priced, much less concepts like advanced metering infrastructure (smart meters) and smart grids, according to the 2011 IBM Global Utility Consumer Survey. Furthermore, the survey found, the less familiar people are with new energy technologies, the less supportive of them they are likely to be.
Those attitudes could prove to be daunting hurdles for utilities launching energy conservation and smart-grid programs. To overcome those hurdles, electricity companies will need to do a better job of “getting into the heads” of their customers.
“There have been major strides with new energy saving technologies, new programs and incentives, but in many cases the market is seeing more confusion amongst consumers than expected,” said Michael Valocchi, vice president, Global Energy & Utilities Industry Leader for IBM Global Business Services. “This year’s survey points to a need and an opportunity to go back to basics and educate consumers by using terms that they understand, behavioral triggers and channels they already use. People want to conserve energy; we just need to get better at showing them how.”
Currently, for example, more than 30 percent of the 10,000-plus people in 15 countries polled by IBM said they’d never heard the term, “dollar per kilowatt-hour” or an equivalent energy consumption measure. More than 60 percent were unfamiliar with smart meters or smart grids.
Such unfamiliarity can lead to consumer resistance, the survey found. While 61 percent of respondents with a strong knowledge of energy technology and pricing terms viewed smart meters and smart-grid deployment plans positively, only 43 percent of those with minimal knowledge expressed the same support.
According to IBM, utilities could better engage customers by using behavioral economics to first understand their thoughts, motivations, misconceptions and motivations for change. Factors to keep in mind include:
IBM is currently involved in more than 150 smart-grid projects around the world.