Harris Poll finds public has little awareness of smart grid or smart meters

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New York City, February 25, 2010 — Utility companies across the U.S. are committing billions of dollars in projects to upgrade the electric grid and install new meters in homes and businesses.

Yet two thirds of Americans have never heard the term “smart grid” (68 percent) and 63 percent have not heard of smart meters.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

A majority of U.S. adults (57 percent) are aware of how much electricity they are consuming, and an even greater number (67 percent) say they would reduce their usage if they had visibility to it.

A fundamental promise of smart meters is to provide this continuous feedback, and in the future consumers could be charged a cost per kilowatt that varies depending on the cost to produce.

If this type of pricing replaces the current flat rate charged, 75 percent of Americans “want to be able to see and control how much electricity” they are using. There is, however, a core of U.S. adults (22 percent) who do not want the electric company to know how much power they are using each minute.

Using what they have read or heard about smart grid, consumers are unsure about what makes upgrades to the electric system necessary or advantageous.

Two in five (42 percent) Americans were unable to outright agree or disagree with the statement “The electricity system is fine the way it is and smart grid is not necessary.”

When asked about the impact of smart grid on the security, reliability, and increased renewable sources of energy on the electric system, at least one-half of Americans expressed uncertainty. However, those familiar with smart grid are more likely to see positive impacts than those who are unfamiliar.

The general population is also uncertain about what will happen to the cost of electricity once these investments are made, and as such are very unwilling to pay for it. Those familiar with smart grid are more likely to believe that the cost of electricity will increase once it is deployed (51 percent) than those who have not heard of smart grid (39 percent). They are also more willing to pay a 10 percent premium on their electric bill now for the future benefits (22 percent vs. 11 percent).

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States January 18 to 25, 2010 among 2,576 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.


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