Smart meter privacy concerns dissipating

Smart grid interest still relatively low

Customer resistance to technologies such as demand response programs, home energy management bundles and smart thermostats have been an obstacle to utilities efforts at rolling out smart grids. However, Navigant Research has found that consumers are coming around to smart meters. Over the past few years, the percentage of consumers who have "favorable" or "very favorable" attitudes toward smart meters has increased, according to Navigant.

"While smart grid favorability has held steady year over year, in the 36 percent to 37 percent range, smart meter favorability has increased from 37 percent, in 2010, to 43 percent in 2013," said Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.  "This result indicates that initial concerns over privacy regarding smart meters in homes are dissipating -- but utilities still have some distance to go in building majority support for these technologies."

Demand programs, which allow a utility to remotely control energy consumption by slightly increasing the thermostat setting for homes or businesses on hot days, for example, have the benefit of taking pressure off the grid, and provide cost savings for the consumer as a result of lower energy consumption.  While this may seem like a win-win proposition, the Navigant survey results indicate that consumer interest in demand response programs is not very strong.  Less than 30 percent of respondents say they are "extremely interested" or "very interested" in adopting such arrangements.

Utilities are still challenged by the fact that various types of smart grid and smart home technologies continue to face different levels of consumer awareness, interest, and acceptance. In addition, consumer expectations of savings from smart home technologies are likely higher than what can be achieved and the price they are willing to pay for these offerings is lower than what the market currently supports. Navigant Research's Smart Grid Consumer Survey shows that while smart grid products and services have the potential to save consumers money by reducing their energy consumption, end-user interest remains moderate to low.

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