The zone of interaction between the smart grid and the consumer has been characterized as “the great unknown.” Yet ready or not—with the smart grid rapidly taking shape, a rush of companies swarming the market, state mandates kicking into effect, and actual deployments being built out—the smart grid is now poised to plunge headlong into this largely unexplored land of consumer demand. Yet so far, despite optimistic reconnaissance gathered from pilot projects and other preliminary tests, real-world expeditions into the new consumer frontier have met with a host of problems—from cost overruns to consumer resistance. So perhaps at this point it would be prudent to step back and reassess this terra incognita.
The smart grid is currently conservatively valued at just over $20 billion in the United States and over $70 billion globally. Yet only about 10% of this amount is accounted for by consumer applications—mostly smart meters. The smart grid will only truly achieve its goals if it establishes positive two-way communications between utilities and consumers. This means that residential applications and services must necessarily gain significantly in share before the smart grid can realize its visionary promise.
This study presents a wealth of insights into smart grid/consumer dynamics. It examines the issues involved in building positive two-way communications interactions, and the intrinsic negative resistance that can be expected. With a focus on residential applications and services, it provides an in-depth analysis of advanced metering infrastructure, smart meters, demand response, dynamic pricing, home energy management systems, home area networks, smart appliances, popular communications platforms, and futuristic technologies. The competitive situation is also discussed, showing how giants like Cisco, Duke Energy, and Google are entering a fledgling field so far dominated by relatively recent startups, such as Enernoc, Control4, and a flock of other companies. Other areas covered in this study include product and marketing trends, recent smart grid deployments, and consumer surveys regarding smart grid acceptance.
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