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SMART GRID TECHNOLOGY Taking a longer term view on customer behaviour change In a recent Big Question, an ongoing feature in Metering & Smart Energy International, we asked whether smart meters were living up to the promise that accompanied their initial installations in the US and across other global markets. That promise of course, was of lower bills for consumers, more visibility and efficiency for utilities and a more sustainable energy future for all. The question, inspired by an article written for the Washington Post by Chris Mooney i , received over 200 responses from people across a variety of sectors. While some of the benefits on the utility side have been experienced, there is a feeling among some that on the consumer side especially, smart metering has fallen far short of the expected outcomes. The question is, of course, why? potential.” She however, accounts for the lacklustre results by saying that “nobody has really leveraged the technology along with efficient behavioral techniques” and says this may well be the reason why results are not quite what had initially been hoped for. Smart meters are an enabler to monitor electricity usage on any number of time cycles – every 15 minutes, half hourly, hourly or daily. Yet behavioral research suggests that technology alone won’t change what consumers do, how they act or the habits they form. Mindspace: Influencing behaviour through public policy, a discussion paper released by the UK government states: “whilst behavioural theory has already been deployed to good effect in some areas, it has much greater potential to help us. To realise that potential, we have to build our capacity and ensure that we have a sophisticated understanding of what does influence behaviour. …behavioural theory could help achieve better outcomes for citizens, either by complementing more established policy tools, or by suggesting more innovative interventions.” Armel too believes that she has the answer to how utilities and government can better relate to consumers in order to drive more impressive, sustainable behaviour change. Her research, which references behaviour change programmes used in the health sector, would suggest that Mooney’s article may cast some light on one of the possible reasons, and Metering & Smart Energy International decided to explore the subject a little more. Mooney referenced work being done by Stanford University’s Carrie Armel, a research assocation at the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center. According to Armel, smart meters themselves aren’t enough to drive a sustained and long term change in behaviour. ii There are more than 50 million smart meters installed across the US, with global figures for installations reaching approximately 400 million at the end of 2013. iii However, energy usage has not fallen as sharply as initially hoped, nor have consumers felt that the ‘pain and/or cost’ of the installation has been worth the result. Says Armel: “Initially I had pretty high hopes. I think the technology has a lot of METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE – 2 | 2015 63