By Dan Bihn, Enerdynamics Instructor
In case you’ve missed the news, not everyone wants a smart meter. According to StopSmartMeters.org (I’m not making this up), no less than 8 counties and 28 cities and towns in California now have a moratorium on smart meter installation. Now the California Public Utilities Commission is directing utilities to create a way for customers to opt-out.
Why? It seems that no one bothered to ask consumers if they wanted a smart meter – and no one bothered to explain why a smart meter could help them and their community.
When utility folks talk about smart meters, they often seem to be talking to themselves, not their customers: “Smart meters will give us better insight to customers’ use-patterns so we can plan better.” Or, “Smart meters will give us more control of the load during critical peak times.” Or, “Smart meters will help us manage the load to reduce our costs.”
But the consumer may be interpreting this as “You’re going to invade my privacy and control my appliances – so you can save money. Thanks, but no thanks.” (Ok, I’m exaggerating – they usually don’t say thanks.)
What if the conversation began with things the consumer cared about?
How about, “We would like to give you a smart meter and we think you’ll want one.” Of course you can opt-out, but before you do, consider these important and exciting things for now and the future:
- With a smart meter, you won’t have to worry about a meter reader stomping on your flowers any more.
- With a smart meter, we can keep your rates lower than they would be with old-style meters.
- With a smart meter, your soon-to-be smart appliances will be able to use electricity when it is cheaper, saving you money.
- With the smart meter, you’ll be able to charge your electric car off-peak for half the price. (And while you’re at it, why not mention that a gallon of gasoline equivalent of electricity costs around a dollar even without a smart meter).
- With a smart meter, you can sell your roof-top solar (PV) electricity on peak for twice as much as you do now.
- And if you want more solar energy on the grid (and recent PEW data says that 77% of us do) smart meters enable a smart grid that can make it much cheaper for all of us to deal with those pesky clouds.
Of course most people don’t have an electric car, PV on their roofs, or smart appliances, but many people can imagine having them – and think that making them cheaper and easier is pretty cool.
This is exactly how forward-looking utilities will be talking to their customers. Stay tuned for more details when they become public.