US consumers in the dark over smart grid power

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The Independent Online

US consumers remain unaware of the benefits of a "smart electricity" grid, according to figures released May 4.

International research firm Parks Associates estimates that some 40 percent of US householders have no idea what the smart grid is all about - despite the 13 million smart meters already installed in households and over $3 billion (€2.3 billion) being earmarked for its development.

Only 11 percent of respondents to the survey described themselves as familiar with the technology, prompting Parks Associates to warn that the low figures pose a risk to future deployment plans.

"Utilities plan to deploy more than 50 million smart meters by 2014, but they need to improve their educational outreach if they want consumers to embrace this technology," said Bill Ablondi of Parks Associates.

"Growing skepticism of the efficacy of smart meters could also hinder growth."

The Obama administration announced an investment of $3.4 billion (€2.6 billion) in modernizing the electricity grid in October 2009, with the president describing smart meters as "devices that will have a direct benefit for consumers who want to save money on their electric bills."

However, some consumers have reported bad experiences with the devices, blaming them for unexpected hikes in electricity bills.

Several other countries are also known to be advocating the move to a smart grid, which electronically tracks the distribution of energy to ensure that it is in the right place at the right time.

Belgium is set to begin smart meter rollouts in the second quarter of 2010, whilst all homes and businesses in Canadian province of Ontario are to be equipped with smart meters by the end of this year. Britain has said that it intends to equip every household with smart meters by 2020.

Find out more about the Smart Grid:

US Department of Energy -
European Technology Platform -
General Electric's "Ecoimagination" -