While many consumers turn lights off, shop for energy-efficient devices and practice other eco-friendly practices, just 10.2 million of 119 million U.S. households are estimated to have enrolled in electricity management programs. Utility companies, the study found, are in the best position to raise awareness of these programs to boost consumers' understanding of energy consumption. Currently, energy management systems allow consumers to control their home air conditioning and heating units through a programmable display. In the future, a smart grid would enable consumers to adjust home cooling and heating systems with a smart phone, run their dishwashers at times of low energy costs, or control home appliances remotely, among other applications. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) member companies, including utilities and manufacturers of smart grid electronics, are advancing the deployment of smart grid systems across the country through CEA's new Smart Grid Working Group.
"Our research shows consumers are interested in how electricity management programs could reduce their monthly electric bills," says Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for CEA. "However, our survey found there is little difference in the bills of those enrolled in electricity management programs and those who are not; which indicates further development by industry, utilities, and government is needed to realize the vision of a smart grid that could bring about more meaningful cost savings to consumers."
The survey of 1,250 adults, conducted in April, sought to better understand consumer awareness and attitudes regarding energy management and how energy efficiency gains in consumer electronics products have changed purchasing habits. More than half — 55% — of consumers expressed interest in an electricity management program sponsored by a utility or electric company. Consumers also indicated they would prefer to use a device in the home (41%), an online portal (41%), or a mobile device (32%) to monitor energy use.
Looking forward, 46% of respondents aware of electricity management programs available in their area expressed an interest in enrolling in the coming years. Many more expressed interest in buying efficient consumer electronics devices. The research also showed those with energy management systems had slightly lower electricity costs, although much greater energy savings is possible when a truly interactive smart grid comes online.
"There are no silver bullets to advancing energy management solutions and eventually creating a smart grid that will allow consumers to remotely monitor and control products and appliances in their home," says Ben Arnold, senior research analyst for CEA. "Marketing efforts need to focus on the cost savings of these systems to get consumers' attention, but at the same time, consumers must be willing to adjust their electricity consumption habits and invest in energy efficient technology."
The survey follows a recent CEA white paper recommending new policies to improve the way Americans understand and manage energy consumption. The comprehensive white paper, "Unlocking the Potential of the Smart Grid — A Regulatory Framework for the Consumer Domain of Smart Grid," called for dynamic pricing programs and real-time consumption and pricing information to reduce energy usage and improve consumer awareness of consumption practices. Such developments could reduce consumption by as much as 20% and these changes are necessary so consumer electronics manufacturers can create the innovative devices of tomorrow that will empower consumers to take control of their energy consumption.