Smart-grid players don't look so smart  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Business Spectator has a post on some of the challenges facing the smart grid industry - Smart-grid players don't look so smart.

Smart grids and smart meters are starting to make their presence felt, but at the Gridwise conference in Washington last month it was clear the companies promoting them have plenty of work left to do to explain to customers exactly what they're for.

There were many positive reports and discussions from the assembled smart-grid industry members – much talk about the enormous progress that has been made.

However several government speakers – at the highest level – also expressed concern about the way the industry is handling its business. And, of course, the lack of customer engagement and the subsequent court actions and other customer problems were never far down the agenda.

While the industry has definitely lifted its game on the consumer issues, concerns were expressed that there was no unified message from it about what smart grids and smart meters are all about. Each power company sends out its own messages to its customers, and the communication that does take place is half-hearted – the utilities are not used to explaining to their customers what they are doing and, because the smart meter issue in particular has questionable benefits to users, customers feel that the utilities are continuing to play some games.

On the other hand, utilities still believe, to a large extent, that customers should simply trust them.

Another issue that was mentioned was that there is no third-party marketplace where consumers themselves can buy and install standardised power monitoring and control equipment. This makes the uptake of such equipment rather low, as customers remain confused as to what they should buy.

Also the point was made that the utilities’ equipment business is not transparent. It was claimed that it involves cartel-like structures between the power companies, their own vendors and other parties who are captive to those companies and vendors.

This is also contributing to the power companies’ reluctance to open discussions on these issues with the broader industry.

The electricity industry has to cooperate with the IT industry, the telcos, management companies, renewable industry companies, car manufacturers and many others – and only collectively will it be possible to find the right solutions. It is essential to break through these silos but there is often significant reluctance to do so, despite the lip service that is often paid to it in public.

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