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No surprise: survey shows we are largely smart grid-ignorant


September 25, 2013 – New research released today by SmartGrid Canada shows that while most Canadians have a limited understanding of smart grids, they become increasingly favourable toward them once they have a better understanding.

“Consumers have the potential to use smart grid technologies at home to better manage their energy—which helps keeps electricity bill down, but can also deliver broader efficiencies to the system,” said Alex Bettencourt, managing director of SmartGrid Canada. “These results clearly point to the need to bring the consumer into the conversation about smart grids. We need to make the make the benefits of smart grids real for them.”

At first, only 31% of survey respondents indicated they had at least a basic understanding of smart grids, with only 27% stating they were favourable to the concept. Once survey respondents were provided a brief definition of smart grids, favourability increased to 54%.

While smart grids have often been defined as the application of digital technologies to improve efficiencies along electricity distribution systems, it also includes electric cars, rooftop solar panels, home automation systems and other energy-related technology that can be used in the home, says SmartGrid Canada

Other research findings include:

• Consumers ranked cost (57%), comfort and convenience (23%) and the environment (20%) as the most important factor for their electricity use.

• Canadians largely see smart grid enhancements as benefiting the system and do not see the value they themselves will draw from a smarter grid. While 73% associated smart grids with fewer and shorter outages, only 17% associated the term with home automation systems.

• The majority of respondents (54%) indicated they found the idea of receiving a real-time energy use monitor from their local utility appealing.

• 29% of Canadians showed an interest in participating in a load control program that would allow an electric utility or a third party to reduce their water heater use when demands on the grid are highest.

• Among the perceived downsides of smart grids, 37% of Canadians believe smart grids could lead to a loss of control over their energy use, and 32% worry about privacy.

“Encouraging Canadians to participate in the smart grid is the single biggest action we can all take to improve the efficiency of the system and avoid new investment in infrastructure,” said Bettencourt. “We have to provide consumers with the information they need to decide for themselves whether they want to get on board.”

The research was sponsored by SmartGrid Canada, ENMAX, PowerStream and members of SmartGrid Canada. The online survey was conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in both official languages, with responses collected online from about 2000 Canadians.