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Consumer interest in smart grids has stagnated, and consequently, it could be years before true smart grids emerge, according to a recent survey conducted by Navigant Research.

The Smart Grid Consumer Survey finds that consumers generally do not recognize the potential benefits of smart grid deployments and related programs and services. Hence, it could take some time before many smart grid-enabled technologies see significant adoption levels.

The research firm says that while less than half of consumers in the U.S. view smart grid deployments in a favorable light, about two-thirds hold a favorable or neutral position on smart grids and smart meters. The survey finds that 37% of consumers endorse smart grids, and 43% favor smart meters.

Significantly, smart grid favorability has plateaued over the past three years. Smart meter favorability, however, did increase slightly from last year.

In addition, while Navigant notes that it expects the installed base of smart thermostats to grow from 700,000 this year to more than 16 million by 2020, only 38% of survey respondents are interested in the product. In comparison, 61% have marginal to no interest in smart thermostats, and just a small fraction currently own one.

There is also limited interest in home energy management (HEM) technologies, Navigant reports. Only 23% of survey participants have a significant interest in these offerings, while 76% have mild to no interest. Similar to smart thermostats, less than 1% of survey respondents currently have HEM systems in their homes.

Navigant says that interest in demand response (DR) programs among consumers is relatively negligible as well. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents have a strong inclination to participate in DR programs, while 70% show middling or no interest. Even in regards to DR programs that offer monetary compensation, a mere 27% have strong interest. Furthermore, less than 1% of consumers polled currently participate in DR programs.

Digging a bit deeper, among the respondents who have little or no interest in DR programs, 48% cite the Orwellian nature of the concept - that is, privacy concerns abound. Other reasons include a lack of understanding about DR programs (30%), a lack of trust in electric utilities (30%) and a lack of necessity for DR programs (26%).

Navigant concludes that several factors must be considered in order to achieve consequential adoption levels of smart grid-related technologies. The firm says that finding a happy medium between consumer price and vendor profitability is significant.

Moreover, consumer education remains key, particularly concerning the cost savings that smart grid technologies can offer. Navigant adds that consumer anxiety about Big Brother needs to be addressed soon.

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