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The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) has released its fourth annual State of the Consumer report, highlighting significant opportunities for utilities and others to meet consumer demand. Although most consumers remain unfamiliar with the underlying smart grid technology, interest in smart grid-enabled programs and technologies is strong across four of the five consumer segments when they are provided more information.

The most widely expressed desire held by consumers is to use smart meter data to better manage their energy usage and cost, with 79% of respondents to SGCC's national poll indicating interest. Consumers are particularly interested in online analysis of their energy usage, coupled with tips on how to be more energy efficient and reports comparing their energy usage to similar households in their area (67% interest in each).

Seventy-one percent of consumers are interested in installing programmable thermostats, 56% express interest in installing solar photovoltaic panels on their houses and 54% indicate an interest in smart appliances.

SGCC also asked consumers about their interest in utility-run programs to increase clean energy and solar photovoltaics, testing four different bill increases ($2, $5, $10 and $15 per month) for the programs. Interestingly, support for both programs was stronger at $15 per month than at $10 per month, indicating that demand for these programs is not inversely correlated with price.

All of this adds up to a significant opportunity for utilities and other smart grid players to develop programs and services that meet consumers' needs and desires. It also indicates that consumers care about things other than just the price they pay for electricity - environmental concerns play a big part in their energy decision-making.

At SGCC, we believe that taking advantage of this opportunity will not only lead to a more consumer-friendly smart grid, but will also help utilities wrestling with flat load growth and questions about the future of their business model.

For more information or to download a summary of the report, visit SGCC's website.

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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