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Utilities increasingly focused on consumers' understanding of the smart grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, September 09, 2011

The development of the smart grid and substation automation are essential to the future of electricity transmission in this country, but a number of utilities are currently facing an unexpected problem: lack of consumer knowledge.

One might suspect that consumers would be unconcerned about electricity transmission but utilities are finding out that they need to appeal to consumers in order to move forward with smart grid development.

National Grid found this out after submitting a proposal for transmission improvements in Worcester, Massachusetts, to regulators, according to CNET. However, the utility decided to change its tack and involve not only local officials but consumers as well.

"What we're really hoping we will learn is how customers want to be communicated with and what energy options they want," vice president of asset management with National Grid Cherri Warren told the news source. "I don't think the industry has brought customers along in the journey and really understands what they need."

In order to gain input from officials and residents, National Grid will be holding a two-day community summit to get feedback. According to the news source, the event will allow the utility to better understand its customers' desires and will also give consumers a better understanding of the smart grid and other technologies.

National Grid is not the only utility recognizing the importance of including consumer input into its smart grid plans, as the upcoming GridWeek conference, held at the The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., will feature a Consumer Empowerment Panel. A number of major players in the electricity transmission world will be participating in the discussion, including Rebecca Craft, the director of energy efficiency at Con Edison.

Also being featured in the panel is Patty Durand, the executive director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, which is a nonprofit organization that looks to promote understanding of the smart grid and the various technologies related to it among consumers.

The Collaborative has seen a tremendous amount of growth in recent months, as its membership has swelled to 70, a 40 percent increase from the beginning of the year.

"We've gained a balanced representation of members from for-profit and nonprofit sectors," Durand said. "One of the things that makes SGCC unique is that we embrace all stakeholders, including consumers."

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