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Commentary

Oracle Study Finds Grid Adoption May Smart From High Costs

Fifty-eight percent of utilities surveyed by Oracle recently said that while they offer net-metering programs only 11% of their customers take them up on their offer. I'm hoping that 100% of those utilities know why: The up-front costs are way too high.
Fifty-eight percent of utilities surveyed by Oracle recently said that while they offer net-metering programs only 11% of their customers take them up on their offer. I'm hoping that 100% of those utilities know why: The up-front costs are way too high.Most consumers can't afford to plop down $10K to $25K on a renewable energy system that generates enough juice to make net-metering (where customers use their own generation to offset their consumption over a billing period) worthwhile. Even though a good home-based renewable energy system can pay for itself in five to seven years, and would help utilities by reducing the need to build peak-power plants, the incentives (up-front subsidies and tax breaks) have been wimpy.

Still, only 42% of utility managers surveyed by Oracle cited "upfront consumer expenses" as the biggest roadblock to maximizing benefits of the smart grid. Another 30% cited a "lack of consistent industry technology standards."

According to the Oracle report, Turning Information Into Power, when asked if they would pay an upfront fee to view a detailed, real-time energy consumption report, just 20% of Americans said yes. That's just a system in place to get the data, never mind actually reduce or generate energy. Indeed, only 6% of respondents have installed some type of renewable energy source in the last 12 months.

Of course, consumers can benefit from generating their own electricity and net-metering, long before anything like a national smart grid is in place. Likewise, IT managers can benefit from technology that helps them measure and manage their energy use, and to participate in demand-response schemes.

Other findings in the Oracle study: -- 91% of utility managers believe it is critical that the U.S. adopts smart grid technologies. They selected "improving power flow management" and "supplying customers with the tools to monitor and reduce energy use at home" as the top two benefits. -- 41% of utilities have assessed the opportunity for smart grid technologies and 16% have begun implementation. -- 94% of Americans are concerned with the energy costs of their primary residence; 95% are interested in receiving detailed information on their energy use; 76% are interested in renewable energy technologies for their home; and 72% of those respondents state that "reducing personal energy costs" is the most important benefit of renewable energy. Overall, it was a sobering report from Oracle, which stands to profit handsomely if a national smart grid is adopted. Oracle's metering and data-management software already is used by more than 1,200 utilities to measure and manage energy flow.