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Getting the consumer onside

In this article, Jim Hayward and David Wing of Baringa Partners share their thoughts on what European suppliers must learn from consumer psychology (and history) to ensure smart meter rollouts succeed.

The date is July 15th 1979 and at the White House in Washington DC President Jimmy Carter has just completed an historic televised address to the nation. The thoughts of the American public turn from their small television sets and the grainy images of the President and back to enjoying their balmy summer evening. Meanwhile, the President turns to his assembled advisors and asks the key question: “Will it work?”

For those that are not old enough to remember this moment, President Carter was asking whether the American people would heed his call to save energy and play their part in averting the impending energy crisis he had just gravely portrayed.

Unfortunately, the disappointing answer arrived only three days later. Results of doorstep interviews revealed there was no difference in energy consumption behaviour between those who had watched the televised appeal and those that had not. The public had listened, but they had
not learned.

Fast forward to 2011 and parts of Europe are poised to begin the largest energy conservation programme yet: the rollout of smart meters to all households.
Much like President Carter’s address, this project has the clear aim of driving down energy usage by both influencing consumers and providing them with the means to change their consumption habits. But will history repeat itself? Or this time, will the public listen AND learn?



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