April 8, 2010
GroundedPower, creator of the interactive customer engagement system (iCES) for consumer-driven energy management and efficiency, has urged the California Public Utilities Commission to encourage utilities to adopt web-based technologies that appeal to self-identified consumer motivations beyond price signals. According to GroundedPower’s formal comments, consumer acceptance and adoption are among the top challenges utilities face with moving to the Smart Grid. This is especially true in California, where consumers in some areas are already rebelling against what they perceive to be higher costs related to the technology.
In response to the California Public Utilities Commission’s request for commentary on the state’s Smart Grid deployment plans and the best methods for providing access to electricity prices and usage, GroundedPower writes that “while price is an important motivator, it is just one of a number of factors that encourage consumers to save energy.”
GroundedPower argues that consumer engagement is fundamental to the next generation of energy efficiency and demand response applications, particularly in a Smart Grid environment. The Company notes that price as a lone motivator may overlook the significant potential of other factors, such as improving the environment, competition, cooperation, peer comparisons, learning and recognition and rewards.
Additionally, GroundedPower recommends that the Commission provide flexibility to utilities to encourage adoption of new and innovative technologies, including those related to web portal and other communications vehicles. In pilot applications, GroundedPower has found that consumers who are engaged, motivated and empowered to achieve energy efficiency goals will have greater recognition of the importance of demand side management. This is displayed in both the level of savings being achieved and in anecdotal information showing increased favorability toward the program sponsor or utility.
For example, the Company points to a pilot project on Cape Cod, Mass., for which monthly savings are averaging close to 10 percent without an in-home display, plug level monitors, time differentiated pricing or direct load control. Participant interest for this pilot program was high, with 90 percent of participants indicating they were interested in keeping the system after the pilot period. With 80 percent of participants logging on to the dedicated site weekly, it is clear that ongoing engagement is imperative to adoption of Smart Grid initiatives.
“The recognition that consumers are motivated by behavior that goes well beyond price signals is crucial to the success of the California Smart Grid. In fact, focusing solely on dollars can lead to user resistance rather than interest and cooperation,” said Dr. Paul Cole, CEO and founder of GroundedPower. “Environmental concerns, competition, community cooperation, peer comparisons, rewards and recognition and learning are proven motivators for changing behaviors related to energy use. Offering technology that enables consumers to tap into their motivations will ensure that California utilities provide users with all the right tools—technological and behavioral—to become habitually more energy efficient, and to feel favorably about electricity providers.”