A combination of pricing transparency and concern for the environment will drive steady uptake of smart meters both among large-scale and domestic customers even in the absence of a federal US electricity policy, technology firm eMeter says.

Although larger facilities represent the “low-hanging fruit” for gains in energy efficiency among electric utility customers, domestic customers share the same concerns about pricing and their environmental footprint, eMeter Chief Regulatory Officer Chris King told Breaking Energy.

Despite the huge shift in the energy business and culturally toward demand response and smart grid efforts, the US continues to fall behind on implementation in the sector, which in turn limits the deployment of renewable fuels for power generation and inhibits efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

The move to energy efficiency is a “parade without a leader,” King said, echoing widespread industry complaints about the lack of clear direction on energy efficiency targets from the Obama Administration. Even in the lack of federal legislation, the White House could articulate “how people’s lives could be different.”

The focus on energy efficiency, smart grid deployment and renewables over the past five years has become increasingly pressing and states have often taken the lead, King said.

There is an international component as well, King points out, as countries around the world rush to modernize their power systems and take advantage of the energy saving opportunities offered by smart meters. China has taken 70% of smart meters shipped in the world in the first quarter, while European countries plan to hit 100% smart meter installation by 2022.

The eMeter data product is an open-source platform sold to utilities to help them handle the flows of data from customers with smart meters; the fact of the code being open-source means that although eMeter has an advantage in developing new applications for the platform third-party developers can also sell applications to utilities using the platform.

In an increasing trend of overlapping electricity and communication infrastructure, the company is part of a partnership with Verizon on cloud-based meter data management for the utility industry. The partnership was announced in February 2011, and utilities will be able to avoid major capital investments in data centers by paying on a per-user basis.