Although $4.5 billion in government stimulus funds have been earmarked for the development of smart grid utility systems and infrastructure, awareness of the technology tends to be low among residential customers of electric utilities, according to J.D. Power and Associates. This raises a significant opportunity for utility providers, as customers who are aware of smart grid and smart meter technology are considerably more satisfied with their residential electric service than customers who are not aware. .
According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, fewer than one in six residential customers say they are aware of actions taken by their utility to implement smart grid and smart meter technology. While overall awareness of utility actions to implement smart grid technology is relatively low, awareness has increased slightly during the past year, from 12 percent in July and August 2009 to 16 percent in April and May 2010.
However, when residential customers are aware of smart electricity technology and their utility's actions around it, overall satisfaction with the utility company increases notably. This presents an important opportunity for utility companies seeking to increase customer satisfaction, which often has significant bearing on rate case decisions.
"As state governments and utility companies develop infrastructure and implementation strategies for smart grids and smart meters, it will be critically important for them to incorporate the voice of the customer in their plans," said Jeff Conklin, senior director of the energy and utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates.
According to Conklin, with residential smart grid technology currently in its infancy, utility companies have the ability to shape the perception and acceptance of smart meters and smart grids among consumers through proactive and appropriate communication. At the same time, utility providers that develop smart systems with customer satisfaction in mind may be able to get things right the first time, ultimately saving in long-term development and implementation costs.
The study finds that awareness of smart grid among electric utility customers varies widely among various states. Awareness of utility actions is relatively high among customers in California, Idaho, Georgia and Oregon, with approximately 28 percent of customers claiming some degree of familiarity. Awareness is particularly low among customers in Arkansas and Montana, with approximately 4 percent of customers in these states indicating they are aware of smart technology implementation.
J.D. Power and Associates released the 2010 Electric Utility Residential Study on July 14, which contains more information about residential electric utility customer perceptions of smart electric technology, as well as overall residential customer satisfaction with electric utility companies