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The 5 Types of Energy Consumers Impacting Smart Grid Growth

<p>A Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) survey of 1200 U.S. residents finds younger, more educated consumers more likely to participate in energy management programs.</p>

With tens of millions of smart meters currently installed in the U.S., customer segmentation is often cited as a critical next step for utilities in deploying smart grid products and services. A new report attempts to classify consumers to help utilities find ways to get residential utility customers to actively participate in demand-side energy management.

Conducted by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), the telephone survey of more than 1,200 U.S. residents finds electric consumers fall into five distinct segments detailing their willingness to participate in energy management programs:

  • Concerned Greens (31 percent) - Most protective of the environment and supportive of smart grid initiatives, with a strong likelihood to actively participate in demand-side management programs.
  • Young America (23 percent) - Doesn't know much about smart grid but is interested in learning about its potential for environmental benefits and cost savings.
  • Easy Street (20 percent) - Segment with the highest income and reluctant to modify change personal behaviors.
  • DIY & Save (16 percent) - Frugal consumers with a do-it-yourself lifestyle; providing for the family matters more than global environmental issues.
  • Traditionals (11 percent) - Set in their ways and do not see the need for energy reform.

The Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study also found awareness of the "smart grid" and related technologies remains low. About half of consumers (51 percent) say they have never heard the term and another quarter (24 percent) have heard of "smart grid" but don’t know much about what it means.

Among those aware of smart grid technologies, saving money (26 percent) and improving energy efficiency (25 percent) were cited as the most convincing reasons to implement smart grid and smart meters.

Consumers were asked if they prefer to manage energy use with an in-home energy management device or a through a cloud-based secure website, with many customers preferring the in-home device (ranging from one-third to about three-fifths) depending on the cost of the device. Though the majority of younger and more educated consumers still opt for website management regardless of in-home device costs.

The survey is explicitly intended to provide to a detailed sketch of utility customers, said SGCC executive director Patty Durand. “Utilities that take the time to understand each segment’s characteristics, attitudes, values and motivations can engage their consumers successfully and provide the most appealing smart grid-enabled products and services. The results from this study have the power to change the relationship between utilities and their customers."

Launched in March 2010, SGCC has more than 80 members -- including technology providers, utilities and non-profit advocacy groups -- to provide research and best practices to help industry stakeholders educate consumers about smart grid technology. The SGCC's Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study is the first in a series three research-based projects on consumer perspectives toward smart grid issues. The report summary can be downloaded from on the SGCC website.

Rendered smart meter photo provided by Shutterstock

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