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Download PDF - Smart Grid Sherpa

5 tips for electric utilities

Proactively addressing

consumer concerns

6


Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key to long-term success of the Smart Grid

Control your news—the good and the bad

Get out ahead of industry news—even if it has nothing to do with you

Help consumers to see benefits from data immediately

Smart Grid is a process, not a project

1

Winning over consumers

3 Control your news

5

Help consumers to see benefits

2

Consumer education is key

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com


Winning over consumers

Winning over consumers

Cost reductions and efficiency benefits made possible by the Smart Grid are only realized

when all energy users in a given region support the system, sending back actionable data

about power usage. The question is: how do we change 110 years of consumer behavior

For a century energy consumers have treated energy as a commodity that was simply there

at the flip of a switch. Now, asking them to adopt smart meters and other energy usage

tracking devices requires opening a dialogue about the new era of energy.

In addition, in response to consumer concerns, many governments require utilities to offer

homeowners the chance to opt-out of smart meter upgrades. With ongoing worry about

privacy, security, and public health, and most recently the fires that have accompanied

the installation of some meters across the United States and Europe, homeowners have

more reasons to take advantage of that opt-out option. Unfortunately for utilities, the

more consumers who opt-out of smart meter upgrades, the less effective the Smart Grid

investment will be.

The following are a few steps from DNV KEMA, using the recent

fires that have accompanied some new meter installations

as a continued example, that a utility can take to deal with

consumer concerns and reduce opt-outs. A comprehensive

action plan can be summarized with two words:

Be proactive.

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

1


Tip 1

Consumer outreach is key to long-term success

of the Smart Grid

Consumers have a number of understandable concerns about the Smart Grid and smart

meters in particular—many of which are being actively addressed by utilities. However,

consumer doubts persist. A comprehensive outreach campaign geared towards explaining

the long-term value of the Smart Grid, begun well in advance of smart meter installation,

can dramatically increase smart meter acceptance. While this type of campaign requires an

upfront investment by utilities, that investment will more than pay for itself by decreasing

active opposition to smart meter installation and the number of opt-outs.

A good outreach program includes:

• The benefits of smart grid technologies to consumers, and how they can take advantage

of those benefits

• Current efforts by utilities to address safety, public health, and privacy concerns

• Timing for the rollout of smart meters

• What to expect once the smart meters have been installed

> When pricing structures might change

> When efficiency measures will be implemented

> When demand response programs, if any, will begin

> What data is being collected, and why

In a survey of German energy consumers:

• 87% knew little or nothing about German Smart Grid

implementation

• Just 3% said utilities provide enough information about

Smart Grid

• 66% thought it was the utility’s responsibility to educate

consumers

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

2


Tip 2

Control your news—the good and the bad

Fires accompanying the installation of new meters have been a mounting concern in

the United States and Europe. Several utilities have experienced the problem, and consumers

are justifiably uneasy. Most consumers do not understand, however, that these fires are

not caused by the smart meters themselves, but rather by old or faulty connections in the

equipemt itself. Unfortunately, the story of these smart meter fires was published first by

a largely uninformed media—and the reality of the situation was not coming through

to consumers.

One of the best ways to manage this is to dedicate one team

member to monitoring news, consumers’ calls, social media,

etc, associated with the meter rollout for the service territory,

and the area at large. Arm that person with a list of likely

concerns and appropriate responses, and let them be proactive

– responding to reporters, engaging in conversations on social

media, and answering questions from consumers.

Responsive media announcements about the fires and the related causes, and detailed

plans to identify buildings with potentially faulty wiring to prevent future mishaps, could

have mitigated the initial level of shock. Controlling the story with the full facts, rather than

being forced to respond to inaccurate information, is critical to maintaining consumer peace

of mind, and educating them about the need to participate in smart meter programs.

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

3


Tip 3

Get out ahead of industry news—even if it

has nothing to do with you

Just as a rising tide raises all ships, a receding tide drops them all. Utilities not directly involved in high

profile industry news like smart meter fires still need to get out ahead of the story. Returning to our

example, what would a proactive utility have done to get ahead of potentially bad news

First, set a plan before mishaps occur: what steps would be taken to prevent these fires in subsequent

rollouts The plan might include doing a pre-inspection of the home to identify at-risk wiring, or

improving training of smart meter installation teams. It seems obvious, and many utilities have enacted

this sort of plan, but some utilities consider the state of wiring in the house to be up to the homeowner

to maintain. However, it is clear that homeowners view anything to do with smart meters, even the

connection to their house, to be the responsibility of the utility.

The second step is to promote that plan. Utilities should proactively

reach out to their consumer base and inform them of exactly how

they plan to mitigate the risk of these fires—as well as explaining the

root causes. These plans can easily be incorporated into the consumer

education program, which should already be in place by the time

smart meter installation begins. Then utilities can work with PR teams

to identify opportunities to promote this plan in the media, which can

position the utility as a forward-thinking company that emphasizes

public safety and education.

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

4


Tip 4

Help consumers to see benefits from

data immediately

Installing smart meters is only one part of a longer-term data management program for

utilities, and there are many other pieces that need to be in place before the data is

actually actionable from the utility side. However, residents have no such restrictions. If

given access to data about their overall consumption levels, which is readily accessible as

soon as the smart meter is installed, then they can start making changes in their energy

use immediately. While enabling residents to see their energy use may require an additional

investment by utilities for in-home displays, the longer-term benefits of reduced energy

consumption could well offset those costs in the form of fewer engagements with costly

backup power plants. Additionally, this reduced consumption will translate to lower energy

bills for consumers—which will go a long way toward helping them understand the value

of smart meters, and the Smart Grid generally.

On Tidy Street in Brighton, England, residents were given

meters that allow them to monitor their daily energy use, and

identify how much energy each device is using. An artist was

hired to graph these households’ energy consumption on the

street.

In the first three weeks, average energy use had dropped 15%.

The lesson If given the data in an actionable way, consumers

will act.

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

5


Tip 5

Smart Grid is a process, not a project

Long after the final smart meter is installed in a community, utilities need to continue

proactive, regular interaction with energy consumers. Anxiety around smart meters is likely

to last for years, even in communities where they have been installed and performed well

for years. Reassuring residents as new concerns arise in the industry, and continuing to

educate them about ways to capture the benefits of their smart meters will be critical. On

top of this maintenance of consumer outreach, utilities should share information regularly

about future Smart Grid plans, and what has been done with the data being collected

by smart meters. Maintaining a steady presence in the community, and getting ahead of

future questions and concerns, will be critical to the ongoing success of the Smart Grid, and

preventing consumer backlash in the future.

As part of their initial Smart Grid project of connecting 200

Montana homes to the Smart Grid, Northwestern Energy is

partnering with DNV KEMA to help consumers understand

exactly how their smart meters and home area networks (HAN)

work. This initial outreach, and ongoing support once the

meters are installed, is critical to the success of the project.

1

2

Winning over consumers

Consumer education is key

3 Control your news

5 Help consumers to see benefits

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

6


Visit www.SmartGridSherpa.com

A free knowledge base and blog providing expert guidance on your

path to the Smart Grid.

For general inquiries, please contact

our head office in Arnhem, the

Netherlands at +31 26 356 91 11 or

via email at smartgrid@dnvkema.com

To find specific contact information for

your region, please visit

www.dnvkema.com/locations

www.dnvkema.com

1

Winning over consumers

3 Control your news

5

Help consumers to see benefits

2

Consumer education is key

4 Get out ahead of industry news

6 Smart Grid is a process

www.dnvkema.com

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