Issues surrounding electricity, such as inadequate supply, soaring prices, and the environmental costs of power generation are becoming increasingly important across Canada. Canadian consumers have the option to become much more efficient in their energy usage by installing a smart meter that can monitor and manage energy consumption in the home.
Despite environmental issues coming to the forefront a study by Ipsos Reid has concluded that Canadians are less than enthusiastic about the possibilities that become possible with a smart meter.
The survey firm discovered that only 23% of adults who responded to the survey replied they were “extremely” or “very” interested in smart meters. On top of that only 37% said they were only somewhat interested in the energy-saving devices. A whopping 40% of Canadians responded that they were not interested in smart meters at all.
Ipsos concluded that the lack of interest is due to a lack of awareness of smart meters outside the province of Ontario where there is a large-scale installation of the devices currently undergoing. Ipsos also believes that the Canadian government hasn’t done its part to promote the technology throughout all of Canada.
Within Ontario, consumer awareness of smart meters is at its highest. The study found that 70% of adults there were aware of the technology while the remaining 30% said they weren’t aware of smart meters before taking the survey. The provincial government of Ontario has mandated that all homes have one installed by 2010.
Elsewhere in Canada, awareness of smart meters is significantly less ranging from a high of 25% in Alberta to a low of 19% in British Columbia.
Mark Laver, Ipsos Reid Associate Vice President, commented: “Even in Ontario it appears that many consumers are unclear about the potential benefits of smart meters. Governments and electricity providers will have to continue to communicate the benefits of smart meters to ensure a successful roll-out and adoption by the general public. Those in other provinces in particular have a great deal of education to do before launching smart meters.”
The survey also inquired about how often energy consumers would use the Internet to check their energy consumption if that service were available. Responses varied widely to this question. Under half, 37%, responded that they would use the Internet to check their energy usage at least weekly with 1% indicating they would check on an hourly basis, 10% once a day, and 26% once a week. Of the remaining 62% of respondents who said they wouldn’t check at least once a week, 17% would check monthly, 25% when the bill arrived, and 20% when they expected the bill to arrive.
These numbers appear to reflect Ipsos’ finding that a large number of Canadians are unaware of what a smart meter can do for them. Such a large number responding that they would check usage monthly, or when the bill arrives would indicate that many consumers lack basic knowledge on the kind of information that would be provided over the Internet. Consumers could check their energy usage and compare that to actual rates and make adjustments accordingly. Once consumers understand what they can do with the information that a smart meter provides, it is certain that they would want to check their consumption information much more often than indicated.
“The concern is that online viewing of energy consumption data will be a novelty item for many Canadians. The challenge for energy providers will be to find ways to keep consumers coming back to these sites to learn more about conservation and their consumption habits. In numerous studies consumers say they are concerned about the environment and conservation however, they do not appear to be willing to do the work to change their behaviors.”
The online Ipsos Reid survey fielded responses from 2725 adults across Canada between April 11 and April 17, 2008.
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