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Apr 20 2009   3:05PM GMT

Selling the smart grid

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

“It turns out customers don’t actually want utilities to turn off their appliances.”
~ Mark Farber, Photon Consultants

Well, there’s a shock. In her post on Earth2Tech.com, Josie Garthwaite writes about the challenge of convincing consumers that smart grid technologies are actually in their best interests. Here’s an excerpt:

Making the smart grid’s most basic elements — two-way communication between utilities and energy users, advanced control systems and smart devices — appealing to consumers could be key to its success. So how can smart grid backers make the investment look more like a boon, and less like a boondoggle for those on the other side of the meter?

For many utilities, adding information technology and two-way controls to electronic devices and appliances represents a potential gold mine of efficiency and a workaround for building expensive new power plants. As Farber put it, “A button is as close to a dispatchable power plant that you can imagine.”

For consumers, however, the benefits of the smart grid have proven to be less obvious, despite promises that it will offer more insight and control over their energy use (and spending). “It turns out customers don’t actually want utilities to turn off their appliances,” said Farber, referring to the two-way control technology that would allow a utility to cut power use when demand strains supply.

If that translates to my espresso machine sputtering to a halt when I need it most… I’m not sure I could be convinced.

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