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IMS Research Analyst Blog
Smart Grid Clarity at FTF
Date: 30 June 2011
I recently attended the Freescale Technology Forum Americas (FTF) during the week of June 20th in San Antonio. This is a substantial conference and brings together a number of technical and strategic marketing folks from all electronics end-equipment sectors, such as industrial, automotive and smart grid.
I was there to moderate a panel discussion on smart grid, something I have done repeatedly in the past. I sometimes worry these events will morph into the kind of ‘Earth is Round’ presentation in which all presenters use their time to explain their view of the smart grid as a whole. However, the presenters at this year’s FTF, who ranged from electronics suppliers to politicians to the media, really pushed further into critical issues about how we are moving forward in making the smart grid a reality. To me, this represented two critical developments worth mentioning.
First, it appeared the audience was mostly aware of what a smart grid is, and was knowledgeable about the difficulties ahead for all industry participants. This is an important change over previous like events, where presentations where more educational and merely a time for folks to recite their own smart grid view or message.
Second, this improved audience knowledgebase allowed the discussion to delve into what appears a very critical issue: how best to ‘sell’ the consumer on the smart grid. This issue is often mentioned in the press, from faulty smart meters causing high bills to fears of radiation from smart meters. In this conference, attention was directed at what many agree is the haphazard approach taken thus-far by utilities and vendors, which has essentially ignored sound customer engagement techniques.
You don’t sell the consumer by taking away services, it was agreed at FTF. You sell the consumer by adding services and value. Utilities and vendors have been telling the consumer that the utility will shut off their A/C during the hottest time of the day, and that this is why the smart grid is wonderful for everyone! With the smart grid seemingly lacking tangible benefits, and utilities failing to provide compelling consumer education and marketing, consumers have been understandably prone to dissatisfaction. While some of these complaints can be addressed simply through education (does my smart meter give me cancer?) others may require a more careful consideration of the business argument for the smart grid itself (why is my bill higher....and what’s in this for me?).
In response to these more serious grievances, we should be reviewing additional benefits and services that can be offered to the customer. Now that the functionality of the smart grid is coming into focus and utilities are much better educated on the best way to direct capital investment, it’s time to review what we are selling the consumer. Better rates? Additional services? The ability to prepay for electricity? The ability to sell their own (on-site generated) electricity back to the utility? What will the consumer gain, and, probably equally important, what messages will motivate the general public to become educated and enthusiastic about the smart grid at their own leisure?
Written by Michael Markides, Research Director
Recent Smart Grid Postings
- 21st August 2012 - Smart Grid Tradeshows in Europe Shifting Focus
- 21st November 2011 - Update on Chinese Smart Electricity Meter Market
- 18th November 2011 - Connecticut Power Outages Underscore Urgency of Electricity Grid Modernization
- 15th July 2011 - Distribution Automation – Training in small utilities
- 30th June 2011 - Smart Grid Clarity at FTF