What’s the best way for utility companies to engage their customers on the need for smarter energy grids? A public education program is one good starting point, and someone’s finally launched just such an effort.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a utility company that did it.
Silver Spring Networks, which provides hardware, software and services for utilities looking to roll out smart-grid initiatives, this week unveiled “A Smart Energy Future.” The school-focused curriculum aims to educate young people about what the smart grid is and what it can do to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. The program also seeks to introduce students to the potential career opportunities a smarter energy grid could bring them.
While it’s certainly in Silver Spring Networks’ best interest to have a public that’s willing to support its offering, one would think it’s an even greater priority for the utility companies that directly serve consumers. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case. If utilities are sincerely committed to the benefits for all that a smarter grid promises, they haven’t yet done a very good job of conveying that message to customers.
The poster-child for problematic smart-grid programs to date has been Pacific Gas & Electric, which has come under repeated fire from end-users and officials throughout its smart meter rollout in California. But utilities across the US and elsewhere are falling down in the PR department. It’s come to the point where some are asking whether the actions of energy firms are actually a grab for bigger profits in disguise … and that’s not a question that’s conducive to getting everyone on board for a smarter energy future.