Australian Consumers Not Energy Smart, Research Warns

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Lack of information on technology is the biggest obstacle to use of energy saving devices.
Consumers need to wise up on the energy management revolution or they will be left behind, says new research which has just emerged claiming that uptake of smart meter devices is sclerotic and has yet to be widely accepted.

The majority of Australian consumers are unaware of how smart meters can help them, and very few have ever heard of the concept of the ‘smart grid,’ where an entire city can monitor energy usage on all building, the study, Residential Energy Management in Australia 2010, has found.  

“The smart energy revolution has many hurdles to overcome if it is to have any significant effect on energy consumption in Australia. Devices like smart meters are yet to be fully implemented or accepted,” Connection Research said in a statement.

This low level of knowledge must be addressed if the problems posed by climate change are to be tacked, the report also warns. However, there is still no absolute guarantee that they will achieve the desired outcome of reducing energy usage, the researchers have warned.

The study was based on a survey of over 2700 households who took part across the country.  

For a smart meter to be effective, users must be able to understand its benefits and engage in energy management including monitoring their usage, being aware of electricity charges, and then decide how they can channel their energy consumption for their maximum benefit.

 

At present, energy users are said to rarely check their quarterly energy bill for any undesirable patterns they could change.

 “The unsuccessful smart meter rollout in Victoria is an example of how new the idea of ‘smart technology’ really is to everyone,” according to Max Philipson, co author of the report.

“One of the many problems was that consumers weren’t to be given complete access to the information collected by the meters. Only the energy suppliers would have complete access.”
The report found that the Victorian experience with smart meters has risked giving the technology a bad name.

“That’s not how smart meters are supposed to work,” he said.

More than half of those surveyed say one of the most significant advantages of smart meters is that they themselves can monitor and control their energy usage.

Ultimately it will be the consumer who needs to change their behaviour if smart technology is to live up to its name, the research concludes.

Smart meters are currently being trialled by energy companies in Australia to counter the issue of resource scarcity, by influencing customer behaviour though demand-response programmes.

These take control of appliances during times of peak demand, and either reduce their power or turn them off.

Last month, a leading analyst from Ovum warned that there is a strong risk smart meters may not deliver on its promises, and the additional complexity that they bring will cause an increase in customer service costs for utility companies.

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