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The Smart Grid is Helping to Change Consumers' Behavior

September 24, 2009

 By Jenny Carless

Cisco, IBM and Dutch utility Nuon have teamed up on a pilot to help the City of Amsterdam make smarter use of energy. The pilot – involving 500 households – puts into action an innovative energy management system, featuring smart meters and other home energy management technology, that aids residents in making more informed decisions about their energy consumption.

An easy-to-read, touch-screen digital display is installed in participants' living rooms, providing real-time information about their energy consumption.

"We all know that you can create efficiencies through technical, appliance-related changes in the home," explains Kjartan Skaugvoll, vice president and general manager of Sales at Nuon. "But we believe the behavior component is critical – not only for the significant decrease in energy consumption it can bring but because it can be implemented much more quickly than widespread appliance upgrades, insulation programs and other such efforts can.

"Our goal is to see how this user-friendly feedback display influences customers' behavior," he continues. "The City of Amsterdam has adopted a very aggressive target – 40 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2025 – and this pilot can help quantify the role people's behavior can play in achieving that goal."

Nuon has reason to be optimistic: it recently conducted a small (18 homes) initial pilot that demonstrated impressive results from residents' use of the in-house digital feedback display: an average reduction of 9 percent in electricity usage and 14 percent in gas consumption.

"This is about empowering consumers," Skaugvoll points out. "We are demonstrating that people can easily cut back on their energy use without compromising on comfort."

 Jenny Carless is a freelance writer located in Santa Cruz, CA.

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