Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: Smart Grid’s Year of the Consumer

In case you missed it, a lot of great things happened in 2015. Notably, world leaders came to a consensus on the fight against climate change, solar energy finally passed the 1% global threshold, a new Star Wars movie came out, and we saw both the Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit extended.

As the intelligence of our nation’s electrical infrastructure continues to grow, so too must our focus on the end user: the consumer. Currently, the United States is roughly half way through the deployment of the nation’s advanced metering infrastructure, and is expected be 70% deployed by 2020. As consumers transition from hearing about smart meter technology to having smart meter technologies, the industry as a whole will need to assist them in becoming dynamic users of newly available products and services. Exciting times indeed.

The good news? Consumers are listening. Recent Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) research has shown that not only are consumers interested in learning more about the money saving solutions offered by their utilities, they are the most interested when they can tie utility messaging to their specific lifestyle or interests. In 2015 SGCC conducted two landmark studies that served to further dissect the thoughts, actions, and motivations that cause consumers to behave the way they do. SGCC’s Wave 5 Consumer Pulse Market Segmentation Study grouped consumers into five separate segments based upon their relative thoughts and actions toward energy usage, the smart grid, smart meters and associated products. Further highlighting these segments, SGCC 2015 Consumer Voices study provided an in-depth qualitative understanding of these consumers segments through on-camera interviews with a variety of utility customers from across the country.

Building on our existing research, throughout 2016 SGCC will further explore the factors that define individual consumers as outline by our research priorities below.

Released annually at our Consumer Symposium held in February, SGCC’s 2016 State of The Consumer report–integrating key findings from the U.S. Department of Energy Consumer Behavior Studies–will discuss how to effectively engage consumers through smart grid-enabled programs and technologies. Building on these findings, SGCC Empowered Consumer research–which will be released in Q1–will evaluate consumer’s propensity to adopt and participate in a variety of smart grid-enabled programs. We’ll be providing a first-of-its-kind look at the cool new things the smart grid has enabled for consumers and will flush out any existing concerns they may have regarding these new technologies.

SGCC will be completing a Consumer Solar & Distributed Energy Resource Assessment in Q2 that will evaluate consumer’s willingness to participate in associated programs, and characterize what they see as the primary barriers to participation. We will explore how consumers see the value of distributed resources such as solar, microgrids and storage technologies while providing insight into what consumers expect out of varying program. Additionally, in an effort to help the utility industry stay one step ahead, in Q3 SGCC will also be conducting research that brings to light customer’s experiences and expectations, revealing what consumers think about their energy providers while providing insight into what products and services customers expect to see in the coming years.

Lastly, in Q4 we will perform an in-depth analysis to identify any consumer concerns that may be inhibiting the adoption of smart grid technologies. This analysis is intended to shed light on how consumers feel about privacy, cyber security, data ownership, and digital safety while examining which, if any, of these concerns are preventing consumers from taking action.

For more information about any of these projects, please review SGCC’s 2016 Research Agenda

With your help, we will continue to push the boundaries of consumer centric smart grid research further than ever before. I encourage you to attend our Annual Consumer Symposium on February 8th, conveniently co-located with DistribuTECH 2016 in Orlando. This year we will be bringing together an unusual number of utility speakers to discuss trends from across the industry. We will have a fun ‘Snake Pit’ style event to debate the top solar issues with the audience determining who has the winning argument, and we’ll be releasing our 2016 State of the Consumer Report, complimentary to attendees. This report guarantees that you are up to date on the latest trends in consumer engagement.

Best wishes for a successful 2016, and we hope to see you in Orlando!

1 comment:

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