Smart Grid

August 08, 2013

Researchers Reach Out to the 'Ends of the Grid' to Survey Utilities, Consumers

After a year of severe weather events—from hurricanes to tornadoes, to wildfires, to dust storms—nearly half of utility executives (48 percent) nationwide in the United States believe that they have an overarching need for data analytics in the area of power outage resolution.

Based on the“2013 Utility Data Analytics Survey,” conducted by Austin, Texas-based Zpryme and sponsored by San Mateo-based eMeter, and in which 260 utility industry executives were polled, 47 percent believe that, today, the highest priority for the big data generated by smart meters is “detecting outages and faults.”  On a lesser level, 35 percent of executives consider “benchmarks” the key industry-wide application.

The research explores overall executive smart grid sentiment on how big data is shaping the future grid and impacting the way in which utilities are processing the endless flow of smart meter data. While digitizing the smart grid continues to be an ambitious undertaking around the globe, the deluge of data can be mined for significant value.

“Analytics drive intelligent investments, higher customer satisfaction, and a more sustainable future. That’s worth more than dollars to today’s utility: It means staying relevant in a changing world,” said Larsh Johnson, co-founder and chief technology officer, eMeter, a Siemens (News - Alert) Business.

Jason S. Rodriguez, CEO and director of research at Zpryme, commented, “Traditionally utilities collect one meter reading at a time. With smart meters, utilities will report and monitor customer usage information at an exponential rate. Data analytic solutions from companies such as eMeter have an important role in helping utilities around the world not only learn more about customer energy usage, but also bounce back more efficiently from blackout events such as Hurricane Sandy in the United States last year.”

Consumer Awareness

At the other endpoints in the utility infrastructure, U.S. consumers still are not significantly knowledgeable about–or even aware of—the new smart grid, let alone data analytics.

 In July 2013, Zpryme’s Smart Grid sentiment survey found that one-third (33 percent) of U.S. consumers polled were aware of the smart grid—and two-thirds (67 percent) were oblivious to the next-generation infrastructure.

Interestingly, this is the highest percentage of consumers who have indicated that they are aware of the smart grid since Zpryme started tracking such data in February 2013. “Hopefully,” the analysts stated, “we will gradually start to see an increase in smart grid awareness, especially as utilities launch new smart grid related consumer outreach and marketing programs.”

Other key findings of the consumer study included the following:

  • Nine percent indicated that they have a “more positive” view of smart grid than they had 12 months ago. This figure is down almost 2 percentage points from last month’s results (11.4 percent in June).
  • Conversely, 6.5 percent reported that they had a ‘more negative’ view of smart grid than they had 12 months ago. This figure is up 2.5 percentage points from last month (4 percent in June).
  • The number of males who were unfamiliar with the smart grid (58.3 percent) was significantly lower than the number of females (75.3 percent).
  • Generally, the older the respondent, the less positive change was observed.
  • Regionally, the West showed the largest positive change (11.1 percent); and the Northeast, the smallest (7.4 percent).

For the consumer study, Zpryme’s Smart Grid Insights collected data via the Internet from 1,002 U.S. adults during July of 2013. This is the sixth consecutive month the data have been tracked. Respondents were asked about their perceptions of the smart grid. The data were weighted by age, gender and geographical region to reflect the national population of the United States. Different groupings of respondents (gender, age range and geographical region) were inspected for differences about how their views of the smart grid had changed over the past 12 months.

Chart above is excerpted from Zpryme graphic.

Edited by Alisen Downey