Two ways the smart grid is unfair to low-income customers (better have answers before your regulators start asking)

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Quick Take:  Take a look at the press release below from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative. Better yet, download the full survey from the link below. As you will see, the release spotlights two challenges with our modern, computer-centric smart grid. First, many low-income families don't have access to utility web portals and smart phone applications that give access to their energy usage information. Second, many of them rent. As a result, even if they get tips on how to save energy, they are often unable to get their landlords' permission to make the necessary changes.

 

So what to do about it? For one thing, make sure all of your charts and tips are also included in your printed bills. Companies such as Opower and Aclara which provide such recommendations typically start with printed reports for just this reason. For another, be sure that you can document educational programs that do NOT require a computer to access.

 

For another… well, I really don't know. I'm not an expert in this aspect of electric power. I do know that people have been working for decades on the disconnect between landlords and their tenants when it comes to energy efficiency. But I'm not the person to suggest the best solutions.

 

But I can predict that both regulators and consumer advocacy groups will care about this very much. And will expect utilities to have answers when they come asking. – Jesse Berst

 

Does the Smart Grid Create an “Energy Divide?”

National survey by SGCC explores smart grid awareness and digital accessibility among low-income consumers

 

ATLANTA, Apr. 10, 2014 –The smart grid can foster an “energy divide” for low-income consumers. With a substantial portion of the consumer benefit of smart grid coming from greater awareness of energy usage, many low-income consumers - particularly older consumers - lack access to utility web portals and other online resources, says a new research report published today by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC). The Spotlight on Low Income Consumers II report, the second part of a national study first conducted in 2012, provides smart grid stakeholders with an in-depth understanding of the needs of the low-income population.

 

The new study highlights the challenge low-income consumers face in accessing their energy usage information provided by new smart grid technologies, and how this impacts utilities’ ability to effectively engage and communicate smart grid data to the low-income population.