Notes from the Smart Grid Symposium

I attended a really worthwhile meeting in San Diego this week–the annual symposium of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC). SGCC has nearly 100 member organizations–utilities, technology companies, regulators and consumer advocates–interested in how consumers are responding to new energy distribution technologies.

Here’s some of what I found interesting:

  • SGCC just published its 2013 State of the Consumer Report, which summarizes findings from its extensive research conducted in 2011-2012 by Market Strategies International and others. You can download the report free. The research topics include segmentation, awareness, favorability, prioritization of benefits, concerns and criticisms, low-income consumers, communication preferences, social media and success stories based on real-world experience.
  • David Lawrence of SDG&E gave an excellent presentation on his company’s social media program. According to Market Strategies’ research for SGCC, about half of US consumers say they are active on social media, and the number is still growing.  Few are now using these channels for energy management or information, but about one-third think they are likely to do so in the future.
  • About two-thirds of US households now have both high-speed internet and a wireless network. There is a lot of infrastructure in place on which to build products and services that will help consumers leverage their energy data.
  • SGCC gave out two awards for excellence in consumer education: Southern California Edison won the utility category for its SmartConnect® program, and Comverge won the technology category for its energy management marketing programs.
  • Communication execs from several utilities conducted a panel discussion that helped me see the linkages between smart distribution technologies, social media  and another hot topic–preparing for and responding to catastrophic storms. To the extent smart grid comes to be perceived as one element in “hardening” the distribution system, another critical and increasingly important consumer benefit is added.
  • There was an eye-opening discussion of global smart grid trends. Did you know that Europe plans to achieve 80 percent smart meter penetration by 2020? I didn’t.
  • Finally, a panel including two consumer advocates, a regulator and an environmental economist discussed some of the many competing objectives that smart grid is expected to serve. One of the great things about SGCC is that they invite and encourage participation by all stakeholders. This creates a space for a well-informed discussion that is honest and respectful, rather than adversarial.

Patty Durand, SGCC’s executive director, ended the meeting by talking about her ambitious plans for the rest of 2013 and asking those of us who participated in the symposium to help get others involved which, I suppose, is what I am attempting to do by writing this post. I certainly left San Diego feeling enthusiastic about staying involved!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.