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The ultimate success of the smart grid will depend on consumers taking a more proactive role in their daily energy management. Thus, getting to the pulse of what consumers really know and understand about energy is half the battle in engaging and educating consumers on the array of benefits that an advanced grid provides. Through in-depth research, the industry will be able to get a better grasp of how to educate and engage consumers on the value of new products and services that can come from a modernized grid.

On Nov. 12, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative released Wave 4 of its Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study - the latest "wave" of an annual telephone survey of 1,001 U.S. residential electricity consumers nationwide. Significant findings of this wave include the following:

- Consumers are more willing to pay extra to invest in and support alternative energy than to improve reliability; and

- Consumers continue to favor critical peak rebate pricing programs over time-of-use pricing programs.

The research, undertaken earlier this year by Market Strategies International, determined that more than 60% of consumers are willing to pay an extra $2, $5 or $15 a month to support deployment of alternative energy. Less than 60% were willing to pay those amounts to improve reliability.

The survey also tracked respondents' impressions of the smart grid and smart meters, likelihood to participate in related energy programs and favorability toward alternative energy.

The report notes that consumer awareness of the smart grid has remained relatively consistent over the last two years, with 53% of Wave 4 respondents never having heard the term "smart grid." However, 54% of respondents who are aware of the smart grid and its benefits are supportive, consistent with earlier "waves" of the survey.

Overall, there continues to be a real need for consumer education around the smart grid. The results from this study illustrate the importance of promoting the understanding and benefits of modernized electrical systems to all stakeholders in the U.S. Together, we can continue to move the needle on education and understanding.

The Wave 4 research report is available for download here.

Patty Durand is executive director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance the adoption of a smart grid.

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