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Public Acceptance of Smart Meters: Integrating Psychology and Practice

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Public acceptance of utility programs and initiatives is vital for efficient deployment. Consumer complaints, protests, and lawsuits, can significantly impede progress and cost utilities, cities, and taxpayers money. One recent area where this has become clear is the deployment of smart meters. While the advantages of smart meters are widely accepted by utilities, academics, and governments, some communities have experienced backlash and disapproval from customers. Many of these concerns have been rebutted by scholars and this backlash seems to vary between regions, suggesting that backlash may be incited by issues related to deployment, rather than the technology itself. It is hypothesized that much of the backlash can be prevented by greater attention to public communication; how to do so is being explored, but is as yet undetermined. This paper presents a model of technology acceptance drawn from psychological theory and a framework of potential strategies for increasing acceptance. Through analysis of 20 U.S. smart meter rollouts, a list of 56 public communication strategies was compiled and subsequently organized into a framework of 24 key strategies based on temporal (upstream, midstream, downstream) and functional (involve, inform) characteristics. This framework, which integrates key psychological theories on technology acceptance, provides utilities with initial guidance on developing successful smart meter communication campaigns.

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Public Acceptance of Smart Meters: Integrating Psychology and Practice

  1. 1. Public Acceptance of Smart Meters: Integrating Psychology and Practice Beth Karlin Center for Unconventional Security Affairs University of California, Irvine
  2. 2. Transformational Media Lab1.  Technology and new media are changing how people interact with our natural, built, and social worlds. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  3. 3. Transformational Media Lab1.  Technology and new media are changing how people interact with our natural, built, and social worlds.2.  There are potential opportunities to leverage these changes for pro-social / pro-environmental benefit. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  4. 4. Transformational Media Lab1.  Technology and new media are changing how people interact with our natural, built, and social worlds.2.  There are potential opportunities to leverage these changes for pro-social / pro-environmental benefit3.  A psychological approach provides a theoretical base and empirical methodology with which to study this potential. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  5. 5. Transformational Media Lab Mission: Our lab studies how media is (and can be) used to transform individuals, communities, and systems. Public / Civic Documentary Residential Engagement Film Campaigns Energy Use B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  6. 6. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media2.  Potential opportunities3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  7. 7. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media2.  Potential opportunities3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  8. 8. Smart Grid“the modernization of electricity transmission and distribution system tomaintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meetfuture demand growth” (EISA, 2007) B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  9. 9. Smart Grid  US: $4.5 billion in Recovery and Reinvestment Act  European Union: goal of 80% coverage by 2020  Canada: mandates for 100% coverage B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  10. 10. Smart Meters  Information collected on-site   Information sent wirelessly  Average frequency: monthly   Average frequency: hourly (approx. 12 data points/year) (approx 8,760 data points/year) B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  11. 11. Disambiguation  Capture instantaneous current signatures for load identification, disaggregation, and analysis (approx 6.3 trillion data points/year) 200 microsecond sampling blu-ray netflix streaming
  12. 12. B. Karlin/ May 2011
  13. 13. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  14. 14. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  15. 15. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  16. 16. Smart Meters offer…  Efficiency gains for utilities   Automatic transmission   Critical Peak Pricing  Feedback for consumers   Transparency of energy information   Potential for energy conservation “Knowledge is power and I am sure the facts are staggering enough that when learned they could cause some change in people’s lives.”
  17. 17. 200+ products in the market B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012(Karlin, Ford, & Squiers, Manuscript in preparation) ACEEE Summer Study
  18. 18. Empirical results   100+ studies conducted since 1976   Results average 10% (e.g., Darby, 2006; Fischer, 2008)   Effect sizes ranged from -.0830 to .4803   Mean r-effect size = .1174 (p < .001) I had no idea how much We installed power strips energy to easily power off all computers used high energy items B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012(Karlin & Zinger, Manuscript in preparation) ACEEE Summer Study
  19. 19. Window of Opportunity
  20. 20. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  21. 21. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  22. 22. People and Energy Use
  23. 23. People and Energy Use
  24. 24. People and Smart Meters
  25. 25. Psychology studies people  Psychology: the scientific study of mental processes and behavior (American Heritage Dictionary)  From the Greek “psyche” (mind, soul) and “logia” (study of)  Areas include:   Cognitive –mental processes (learning, perception, memory)   Developmental - intellectual, as well as moral development of the mind   Social - reactions to social stimuli and their underlying mental processes   Neurological –behavior that springs from reactions within the nervous system
  26. 26. It’s not just…
  27. 27. But all of this
  28. 28. Smart Meters as Transformational Media1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  29. 29. Our Approach1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  Current Study:Apply relevant psychological theory to the case of smart meter adoption;use content analysis to develop a framework of communication strategies;provide utilities with guidance on how to develop successful campaigns. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  30. 30. Our Approach1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  Current Study:Apply relevant psychological theory to the case of smart meter adoption;use content analysis to develop a framework of communication strategies;provide utilities with guidance on how to develop successful campaigns. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  31. 31. Dual Process Model B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  32. 32. Cognitive Appraisal B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012www.cred.columbia.edu ACEEE Summer Study
  33. 33. Affective Response B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012www.cred.columbia.edu ACEEE Summer Study
  34. 34. Perceiving Risk and Benefit B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  35. 35. Perceiving Risk and Benefit B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  36. 36. The Role of Trust Important characteristics: 1. Ability 2. Benevolence 3. Integrity "People dont really care how much you know until they know how much you care.” - Mike McNight B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  37. 37. Public Participation•  Public acceptance is a function of both acceptance criteria (features related to the policy/program) and process criteria (features of the decision-making process) 1.  Information (e.g., I find it important to be informed) 2.  Consultation (e.g., people should be included in process) 3.  Cooperation (people should be involved in process) 4.  Self-responsibility (I feel responsible for the project)(Rowe & Frewer, 2000; Zoellner et al., 2011) B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  38. 38. Trust Confidence Cooperation Model B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012(Earle, Siegrist, and Gutscher, 2007) ACEEE Summer Study
  39. 39. Our Approach1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  Current Study:Apply relevant psychological theory to the case of smart meter adoption;use content analysis to develop a framework of communication strategies;provide utilities with guidance on how to develop successful campaigns. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  40. 40. Content Analysis Methodology •  Sample of 20 utilities drawn from a report of smart meter deployments (The Institute for Electric Efficiency, 2011).Collection •  All five California utilities from the list were included and a random sample of 15 additional utilities was chosen. •  Data collected Fall 2011 / Winter 2012 •  Collection methods:Collection •  (1) Official utility websites •  (2) Internet queries: (utility company name) and “smart meter” •  Initial codes based on previous literature •  Open coding resulted in over100 distinct codes Coding •  Axial coding by study authors resulted in 52 specific actions related to smart grid deployment, grouped into 11 primary categories •  Analysis of final coding sheet resulted in key themes in utility deployment as well as framework for public communication Analysis •  Next steps involve testing framework using a comparative case study of 4 utilities, chosen from among the sample
  41. 41. Utilities included in sample B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  42. 42. Theoretically derived strategies•  Dual Process: emotional appeals•  Risk Perception: emphasize benefits; inform early•  Trust: independent research; community programs•  Communication: train and engage service workers•  Participation: public comment or vote; tours & events B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  43. 43. Strategies used by utilities
  44. 44. Findings1.  Most common – information about meters •  Mail and door hanger notification •  Printed materials (e.g., brochures) •  Smart meter information on website2.  Mostly just prior to or during installation3.  Innovative practices among a small handful of utilities •  Feedback devices and enhanced websites •  Involvement with community groups and events •  Use of interactive media4.  Consumers created their own ‘programs’, when needed.
  45. 45. Our Approach1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  Current Study:Apply relevant psychological theory to the case of smart meter adoption;use content analysis to develop a framework of communication strategies;provide utilities with guidance on how to develop successful campaigns. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  46. 46. Smart Meter Communication Framework(during the decision- making process) (implementation / installation) (continued involvement)
  47. 47. Our Approach1.  Technology and new media 2.  Potential opportunities 3.  Psychological approach  Current Study:Apply relevant psychological theory to the case of smart meter adoption;use content analysis to develop a framework of communication strategies;provide utilities with guidance on how to develop successful campaigns. B. Karlin / 13 Aug 2012 ACEEE Summer Study
  48. 48. Some thoughts…1. First impressions matter.2. Everybody is a potential communicator.3. If you don’t communicate, somebody else will.4. We are motivated to believe what we want to believe.5. People remember how they feel more than what they hear.
  49. 49. Some suggestions1. Think about communication before, during, AND after actual smart meter installation/deployment.2. Make sure your communication channels are bi-directional (involving and inviting participation of the community).3. Work with independent parties (e.g., universities ) on research and development of your programs.4. Engage and utilize staff and the public as informal communicators.5. Offer benefits (e.g., enhanced billing, feedback) after the meters are installed, but postpone major rate changes.
  50. 50. Closing Thoughts“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worthanything at all.” - Mark Twain Acknowledgements Research Assistants: Nicklas Svenson Cassandra Squiers Contact: bkarlin@uci.edu

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