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In a national survey commissioned by GE, 79 percent of Americans said they would adjust their energy consumption habits and behaviors in the short term to effect change long term, quite possibly because most of them (72 percent) believe that how they generate and use energy today could actually harm the economic growth of the country. Sixty-three percent noted they would work with their power company to influence change in consumption habits.
As Congress works to define America’s energy future, the survey found that the majority of Americans are willing to think differently about their use of energy, embrace innovation and seize control of their energy destiny. The survey indicates that Americans will respond positively to “smart” appliances that are empowered by “smart” meters offering new pricing models, which will result in a fundamental shift in how energy is consumed.
“There are some things that are essential to achieving a desired quality of life, and Americans overwhelmingly agree that investing in our nation’s energy future is one of them,” explained Bob Gilligan, vice president of digital energy for GE Energy Services. “The American electrical grid system has undergone little investment in the past 25 years. Even worse, most generation stations were built in the 1960s or earlier using even older technology. As a nation, Americans recognize that a cleaner, smarter and more efficient energy infrastructure will help create a competitive economic future. The key is to invest correctly – the right way rather than the easy way.”
Where do Americans wish to see investments made to overcome energy challenges? The majority (70 percent) agreed that they would prefer their power company invest in current infrastructure to make it more efficient rather than build new power-generating facilities and believe these improvements to the grid would lead to economic growth opportunities.
Eighty-eight percent of Americans said they would be willing to use a smart device such as a meter, thermostat or appliance if it would help to better manage their energy usage – the same number of people who think energy investments are a necessity. Better yet, 82 percent of those willing to use these devices believe smart meters and smart appliances are the future.
Some of the primary motivators for consumers’ smart grid support include:
“Consumers are ready to think differently about how they use energy,” continued Gilligan. “For those consumers that do not currently embrace smart grid technologies, more than a quarter of them (27 percent) admit that they don’t understand the benefits of smart meters or smart grids. Therefore, it is important that continued consumer-friendly education is provided to address this gap in understanding.”
Programs under development will allow the intermittency of clean, domestic energy sources to be managed and their contribution to our power supply to be maximized. Smart grid technology will give consumers information about their energy usage, allowing them to better understand their energy consumption. If time-of-use rate programs are implemented, consumers could also choose when and how to best consume electricity for simple tasks like running their dishwasher or air conditioner. As electric vehicles become more prevalent, smart grid technologies could enable consumers to benefit from more favorable nighttime rates.
Despite significant consumer endorsement of the development and deployment of a smart grid and the end benefits that it will deliver, a minority (10 percent) is still hesitant to accept it as the way forward. The majority of these consumers are primarily concerned about a rise in costs (62 percent) and potential privacy and security risks (61 percent) – all of which are often fueled by misperceptions that can be addressed by continued consumer education.
Gilligan emphasized, “The energy industry has to earn the trust of the American people. At GE, we’ve engaged in partnerships with academics, environmental organizations and consumer associations to collectively improve outreach and education.”
The survey was conducted by StrategyOne, an applied research consulting firm, in June 2010 through telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.