One of the biggest challenges in building-out the smart grid in the U.S. isn’t a technological one. Rather, it’s explaining just what the smart grid is and why it matters to everyday people — since making consumers more aware of their own energy consumption can change their behavior. It’s why GE Energy has been conducting a number of surveys to gauge public perceptions about the smart grid. In the latest one, a majority of Americans, 79 percent, say they would adjust their energy consumption habits and behaviors in the short term to effect change long term — quite possibly because most of them, 72 percent, believe that how they generate and use energy today could actually harm the economic growth of the country.

 

Eighty-eight percent of Americans said they would be willing to use a smart device such as a meter, thermostat or appliance if it would help to better manage their energy usage. People power: Eighty-eight percent of Americans said they would be willing to use a smart device such as a meter, thermostat or appliance if it would help to better manage their energy usage — the same number of people who think energy investments are a necessity. Better yet, 82 percent of those willing to use these devices believe smart meters and smart appliances are the future. Image: http://www.itsyoursmartgrid.com/

“For those consumers that do not currently embrace smart grid technologies, more than a quarter of them (27 percent) admit that they don’t understand the benefits of smart meters or smart grids,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president — digital energy for GE Energy Services. It comes as a survey in The New York Times today shows that most Americans think the nation needs a new energy policy, with 58 percent saying that while there are good things in the current policy, changes are needed, and 31 percent say there’s so much wrong it needs to be completely rebuilt.

Among the other findings in GE’s new telephone survey, which polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers, is that the majority, 70 percent, agreed that they would prefer that their power company invest in current infrastructure to make it more efficient rather than build new power-generating facilities. They also believe these improvements to the grid would lead to economic growth opportunities.

Some of the other primary motivators for consumers’ smart grid support include: saving money (95 percent); increased control over energy bills (90 percent); making a difference for children or grandchildren (88 percent); reducing the number of power outages (86 percent); and environmental concerns (85 percent).

Ten percent of those polled are still hesitant to accept it as the way forward, with their concern primarily being a rise in costs (62 percent) and potential privacy and security risks (61 percent) — all of which are often fueled by misperceptions that can be addressed by continued consumer education. A similar GE survey conducted in the U.S. in March helped underscore the need for more consumer awareness, with 79 percent of respondents in the March poll saying they are still not familiar with the term “smart grid.” A sister survey in Australia had similar results.

* Read the June 2010 U.S. survey announcement
* Read the March 2010 U.S. survey announcement
* Read the March 2010 Australia survey announcement
* Read the July 2009 U.S. survey announcement
* Read the Dept. of Energy’s booklet: The Smart Grid: An Introduction
* Learn about GE’s smart grid efforts in Florida, Oklahoma and Houston
* Watch GE Reports’ videos about our smart grid research labs

Learn more in these GE Reports stories:
* “Google & GE call for home energy info in Copenhagen
* “New Atlanta Smart Grid hub on pace for 400 jobs
* “Powered by innovation: AEP’s gridSMART project
* “Smart grid survey: Majority Down Under still wonder
* “Getting smarter about the smart grid
* “Switching smart grids from ‘demo’ to ‘deploy’ at WEF