Communicating with customers has become a big part of the smart grid conversation, but according to a new survey from Distributed Energy Financial Group (DEFG), utility smart grid communications efforts are below average and 40% of survey participants rated them “ineffective.”

DEFG’s online survey included more than 200 energy professionals, almost one-third of them from utilities.

The survey findings note that the biggest barrier to effective smart grid communications is a “lack of a comprehensive strategy” by utilities. Here are some other key findings from the survey report:

  • When thinking about the metrics of measuring smart grid communications, participants believe “General awareness that deployment is planned or in progress” is important for consumers to know
  • 78% of respondents believe the message that grid modernization “will make it easier for individuals to control their bills” will resonate with consumers
  • Almost half said empowering consumers to be a part of cost mitigation efforts and improving utility outage detection and restoration also will resonate with them because they will be interested in restoration maps and related alerts
  • Utilities are investing very “modestly” in consumer education, particularly when compared to overall smart grid investments

While the survey findings are critical, they also point out what are likely some missed opportunities, as is clear from the above examples. The findings also include recommendations like this one: “A good long-term vision can set the stage with reasonable milestones and actual benefits added at each stage of deployment. Only a few utilities seem to have developed or articulated a clear path forward.”

DEFG is a management consulting, marketing and investment services firm.