The smart grid communications activities of Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga, Tennessee are examined.

DEFG investigated smart grid communications at five energy utilities in 2011-12 and presented its work as “Meta Analysis and Utility Case Studies on Smart Grid Communications.” The work was sponsored by the Demand and Energy Technology Research Consortium (DETech) and was completed in March 2012. This case study is and excerpt which is available for review in presentation format.

The case study found that EPB has a wonderful relationship with civic and business leaders. There are many in the community who would be enthusiastic champions for smart grid initiatives and investments, and EPB could gain a tremendous advantage by encouraging that grass roots advocacy. One of the challenges EPB is facing is bringing the local media up to speed on smart grid issues so the stories they write are accurate. Collaborating with other utilities and cross-stakeholder groups would benefit EPB.

Overall, this work found that utilities are investing very modestly in customer education, especially when viewed in the context of overall smart grid deployment costs. Only a few utilities seem to have developed or articulated a clear path forward. Traditional and digital communication channels work best if complemented by employee volunteers and speakers in the community and collaboration with trusted non-profit partners. Interactive sessions allow spokespeople to respond to the real concerns of the people, which is the best way to overcome misinformation and fears. Consumer participation will increase if people feel they are choosing pricing and technology options that fit their values, residential structure, and lifestyle. There are good examples of simple and clear explanations of smart meters, smart grid, and visions of potential benefits of a smart energy vision integrated with other energy efficiency practices. Sharing resources, productions, applications, and approaches could help regional adoption and reduce development costs.

Filed Under: DETech, Smart Grid