Should All Consumers Get Real-Time Energy Usage Displays?

August 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

The London Times reported last week accusations that UK electricity sellers are seeking to prevent consumers from receiving real-time displays of electricity consumption when smart meters are installed. The debate was stimulated by the Government’s proposal that all consumers receive a mandatory, Government-approved real-time display. The energy retailers are not disputing the value of real-time displays; they are simply saying the market should be the delivery mechanisms, and consumers should be the decision-makers.

The energy suppliers are right in supporting customer choice on the form of energy feedback. I have been program manager for various energy efficiency programs and pilots over the past two decades. These programs, throughout North America, have provided choices in pricing (e.g. time of use) and information feedback, including Internet, monthly enhanced reports, and in-home displays. Nothing has been more consistent than that consumers want choices, including the form of energy information feedback.

The stakes are high. Even at $25 per device, in-home displays would cost over $600 million across the UK. And the potential energy savings are even larger. But results are best when the market is allowed to work: how many of us paid attention to MP3 players before the iPod?

Chris King

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Entry filed under: Smart Grid.

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