We asked Amy Marshal, Director, Business Development at Engage Consulting about the report she co-wrote entitled “Smart Grid: A great consumer opportunity.” The report was commissioned by Smart Grid GB and outlines the opportunities for both the utility and its consumers.
As many are not convinced of the benefits for the consumer, we asked Ms Marshal to elaborate.
“There’s obviously a lot for the utility to gain from the smart grid such as effective asset investment , longer life cycle on existing assets, better control, and reduced field visits, for instance. But, there are also many benefits,for the consumer,” explains Ms Marshal. Although utilities benefit most directly from energy system efficiency, consumers can benefit from the resulting effective use of investment. In addition to this, socially and environmentally, we all benefit from the resulting contribution to reducing or curtailing carbon emissions.
She pointed out that consumers can look forward to a reduction in their energy bills. The report suggests that a portion of the financial benefits of smart grid must be passed to the consumer in order to secure their participation and engagement. This is in addition to any bill reductions the smart grid facilitates. Financial benefits should be passed on to the consumer through incentives and lower prices.
Another benefit for consumers is an improvement in the reliability of their electricity supply. Smart grid will improve customer service during power outages through increased grid automation and reduce power interruptions.
It is up to the utility to show or communicate to consumers the direct and personal benefits that they will attain from the smart grid, explains Ms Marshal. If these benefits are communicated in a simple and clearly, expressed manner via multi-channel communication means, smart grid market development and smart schemes such as demand side management will be greatly enhanced. The benefits should be relevant to their personal needs and desires.
Ms Marshal suggests the following to utilities:
- Tell people before it happens and keep it consistent
- Make messages available through multiple channels and be consistent across those methods through central body
- Make it clear as to what is going to change and what the benefits will be
- Make the message aesthetically pleasing, clean and clear
The report shows that a number of utilities fail to carry out effective customer engagement and, as a result, deployments are ineffective. Says Ms Marshal, “Consumer opportunities will only be realized if all parties involved get it right.”