Smart grid customer engagement: Lessons from Denmark

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Quick Take:  I have always been suspicious of claims that electric power customers are motivated solely by costs. Yes, money is important to all but the most affluent customers. But many other factors come into play when consumers make energy choices, as this recent Danish pilot demonstrates.- By Jesse Berst

 

On the Danish island of Bornholm, the Ecogrid EU smart grid demonstration project  is providing valuable lessons in how utilities can better engage customers.

 

The pilot involves smart meters, sensors, appliance controllers and a communications network. To persuade residents to participate, the project managers had to learn how to clearly articulate the benefits of a smart grid to end-users. At the same time, they had to manage expectations.

 

This particular pilot uses to web portals. One tracks energy usage and predicts future bills. The other lets participants control setpoints and actions for home appliances. The pilot is testing how price signals affect behavior.

 

But dynamic pricing is challenging in Denmark, where energy costs are comprised mostly of fixed components (including taxes). The actual energy consumption accounts for only 20% of the typical bill. As a result, even when customers reduce their energy use, they may not save much money.

 

Money isn't everything

But this Danish pilot discovered that money is not the only motivator. Many end-users wanted access to better home technology. For instance, it can be easier to control the temperature of individual rooms via the web portal than via the cryptic interface of a typical thermostat. In addition, customers can use the portal to remotely monitor home conditions.

 

For further information about the EuroGrid EU project, you can access a free webinar archived online. Integrating Information Technology with Operational Technology in the Smart Grid: The EcoGrid EU Launch

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.