With government and business leaders assembled this week in Sydney, Australia for the 2010 National Smart Grid Forum, GE on March 23 released the results of a new consumer survey. One of the key challenges that emerged is that the majority of Australian consumers, much like their U.S. counterparts, don’t know what a smart grid is — pointing to the critical need for the industry to focus attention on consumer awareness. However, in an encouraging sign for adoption of smart grid technologies, the survey found that of those Australians who are familiar with the term, they are ready to embrace it. As Bob Gilligan, vice president of transmission and distribution for GE Energy, told the group in his keynote address: “Energy costs as a percentage of take home pay have been on a decline for 25 out of last 30 years, but over the last five years that trend has reversed itself.” Citing new estimates that show electricity prices in parts of Australia are expected to rise by up to 64 percent over the next three years, Bob said that “these increases are resulting in consumers who have traditionally been unconcerned about their electricity bills … now focusing on what they can do to influence their spend on electricity.”


Bright idea: In May, the Australian government announced an AUD $4.5 billion Clean Energy initiative as part of its commitment to ensure that 20 percent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable energy by 2020. Australia’s energy consumption is projected to increase by 44 percent by 2030 and homes in 2030 will demand 56 percent more energy than they did in 1990, according to a government white paper. Sydney is pictured above. Photo: Getty Images

The smart gird survey, which polled 500 Australian consumers, found that 72 percent of Australians are not familiar with the term “smart grid.” Of those who are familiar with the term, nine out of 10 respondents were overwhelmingly positive about the technology; 45 percent agreed that the smart grid would help Australia rely more on clean domestic energy sources; and 45 percent said it would help reduce the number of outages and lead to quicker power restoration when outages did occur.

“The good news is that many Australians who do understand this new energy system grasp its benefits — among the top being time-of-use pricing,” Bob said. “I can’t stress enough that driving consumer awareness and acceptance of the smart grid must become as significant a priority to industry and government leaders as actually bringing smart grid technologies online, because smart grid’s success is reliant on achieving both.”

A similar GE survey conducted in the U.S. was also released today, showing that — much like their Australian counterparts — 79 percent of respondents are still not familiar with the term smart grid. However, of those in the U.S. who are familiar with the term, 80 percent are ready and willing to learn about how it can help them. The survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers also found that of those familiar with the term, 72 percent think it will help them save money on their monthly power bills and 63 percent believe smart grid will create new jobs in the energy sector.

* Learn more details about the Australia survey
* Learn more details about the U.S. survey
* Read about GE's U.S. survey data compiled last year
* Read more smart grid stories on GE Reports
* Learn about GE’s smart grid efforts in Florida, Oklahoma and Houston
* Read “Getting smarter about the smart grid” on GE Reports
* Read “Switching smart grids from ‘demo’ to ‘deploy’ at WEF” on GE Reports
* Read a blog post by Bob Gilligan
* Read “GE’s smart grid: Introducing the “Zero Energy” home” on GE Reports