TODAY’S STUDY: THE PUBLIC’S TAKE ON ALL THOSE SMART THINGS
Smart Grid Consumer Survey; Consumer Attitudes and Opinions about Smart Grids, Smart Meters, Smart Thermostats, Home Energy Management, and Demand Response
Charul Vyas and Neil Strother, 4Q 2013 (Navigant Research)
As smart grid rollouts continue in the United States, albeit at a pace slower than in previous years, utilities and vendors are looking for ways to maximize the impact of these deployments.
Some of the possible applications of smart grid and smart meter deployments include demand response (DR) programs, home energy management (HEM) bundles, and smart thermostats. While these offerings have the potential to save consumers money by reducing their energy consumption, end-user interest remains moderate to low at the present time.
In order to better understand consumer interest and attitudes related to a select group of smart grid concepts, Navigant Research conducted a web-based survey of 1,084 consumers in the United States. The survey was executed in the fall of 2013 using a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample.
The key findings of the survey are summarized in this report. More specifically, the Smart Grid Consumer Survey analyzes the dynamics of consumer demand, favorability, and attitudes toward several key smart grid product and service categories: smart grids and smart meters, smart thermostats, HEM bundles, and DR.
» Approximately two-thirds of consumers had a favorable or neutral view of smart grids and smart meters. Overall, the percentage of respondents that held a favorable view of smart grids remained steady with the 2012 survey, while the percentage that held a positive view of smart meters increased slightly.
» Less than 40% of consumers expressed a high degree of interest in smart thermostats. While consumers like the idea of smart thermostats being able to learn and adapt to their preferred settings, connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi to remotely control the thermostat, the ability to connect to the utility’s energy savings programs, and controlling the thermostat from a smart phone, the majority are not willing to pay more than $100 for the product.
» In general, interest in smart thermostats and DR services increased with respect to higher annual incomes and monthly electric bills, but decreased with respect to increasing age.
» Less than one-quarter of respondents expressed a high degree of interest in HEM bundles. Interest increases with respect to income and monthly electric bill, and close to 61% expect such an offering to save them 15% or more on their monthly electric bill.
» Interest in DR programs has not yet materialized. Nearly 40% of respondents said they were not interested in this type of program. The main reasons for the lack of interest were privacy concerns and lack of understanding of DR programs.
» Even with the addition of a rebate or credit on the energy bill, consumer interest in DR programs did not show a significant change. However, the level of interest was highest among respondents in the 55 to 64 age bracket and those with reported annual income in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.
» Consumer expectation of savings that can be derived from new technologies and programs, such as DR and smart thermostats, is likely above current capabilities. For example, 30% of consumers expect a smart thermostat to produce a savings of 20% or more, and 47% of consumers expect a DR program to produce a savings of 20% or more.
» Utilities and other stakeholders in the sector will continue to struggle with how to most effectively engage consumers in regard to managing their energy use. Models for how to do this are just beginning to be established and proven out. However, it is still early in the adoption cycle for many of the approaches that utilities need consumers to embrace in order to achieve desired energy and capacity savings.
Chart 1.1 below shows the percentage of respondents who viewed smart grids and smart meters in a neutral or favorable light. Respondents held slightly more favorable/neutral opinions on smart meters (70%) than on smart grids (66%)…
Smart Grid and Smart Meters…Smart Thermostats…Home Energy Management Bundles…Demand Response…
Summary and Conclusions
Navigant Research’s 2013 Smart Grid Consumer Survey highlights the fact that end users have yet to see many of the benefits provided by smart grid-enabled services and programs. While some utilities have had success in delivering their messages about the value of the smart grid – especially with respect to the meters themselves – Navigant Research’s survey shows that the link between programs, services, and products that leverage smart grid capabilities and the benefits to consumers is still weak in the end users’ minds. The fact that these consumers’ views of smart meters and smart grids have not changed a great deal over the past 2 years, and that interest in other offerings, such as DR, smart thermostats, and HEM bundles is low to moderate, means it will take several more years for these technologies to reach meaningful adoption levels.
In order to move into mass-market adoption, utilities, service providers, and technology vendors will need to focus on several key areas:
» Finding the right price point: Consumers are very price sensitive, and a high price for a product or service is likely to turn them away from the offering. Vendors must find the right balance between the price consumers are willing to pay and the price they need to charge in order to achieve profitability.
» A clear value proposition: Consumers are reluctant to sign up for an HEM bundle or buy a smart thermostat because they are not sure what the benefits will be. Since expectations of reduction in energy bills are high, there must be a concerted effort to demonstrate the cost savings benefits, while modulating those expectations that are not likely to be practical, for each of the areas discussed in this report.
» Continued education: All ecosystem players need to more clearly and effectively communicate the benefits of these technologies, including cost savings and benefits to the environment, as well a return on investment when consumers are required to purchase a product or a service. The study shows that many consumers are not familiar with smart grid offerings or their benefits. If executed effectively, such marketing efforts will help drive awareness of and favorability toward smart grid technologies.
» Redefining savings: While a consumer may not be willing to spend money on a product or service that has limited payoff the first year, vendors can shift the discussion to savings achieved over the device’s lifetime, or savings over the course of many years, to help consumers see the long-term value of these offerings. A longer-term view could help move consumers off the sidelines and encourage broader adoption of products and services.
» Reassurance of privacy: As seen in previous years, consumers continue to be wary of “Big Brother” and the monitoring aspects of DR programs. The security concerns around smart home technologies, both real and perceived, need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
As Navigant Research’s survey shows, each type of program and technology has a different level of interest and favorability in the eyes of the consumer. Therefore, these specifics must be taken into account and addressed as utilities and vendors fine-tune their efforts to drive adoption.