EPRI: Utilities have a LOT more to learn about what customers want

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By: SGN Staff

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Consumer engagement has become an increasingly important aspect of the smart grid initiative, particularly in the past few years. But there are many critical gaps in our knowledge, according to a new report from EPRI. Yes, we've learned a lot in recent years through alternative pilot programs and other research designed to gauge what customers really want. But surprisingly little of the results could be considered verifiable or affirmed.

 

One example: There have been credible estimates of response to time-of-use rates, critical peak pricing and peak time rebates for residential and bigger customers who subscribed to the programs voluntarily. But those findings cover the relatively small number of customers who follow through and participate. A critical gap is knowing who gets involved in those programs and, possible more importantly, why.

 

While that's not exactly a round of applause, electric utilities, regulators and others concerned with consumer engagement and smart grid should consider sending thank you notes to EPRI right about now.

 

 The report, Understanding Electric Utility Consumers - Summary Report: What We Know and What We Need to Know, shares the results of an extensive and detailed 18-month review of the existing research done to figure out how customers use and value electricity. It focuses on larger field trials conducted in the last 10 years or so, and the results are broken down by market sector: residential, commercial and industrial.

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