We know that “control,” as in “take control over your energy costs,” is an effective message with many Americans – particularly those who lean to the Right. We also know, thanks to our recently published Utility Pulse report, that gaining control is the reason that 61% of the American population are interested in Smart Meters.
We also know that a perceived loss of control is one of the key reasons why 34% of Americans are either uninterested in or simply on the fence about Smart Meters. (The remaining 5%, by the way, already have a Smart Meter.)
And, many of those who are worried about losing control are also those Right-leaning among us.
A New York Times article bore this out on January 31 – that the majority of the people opposing Smart Meters in California identify themselves as conservative and Republican; many are Tea Party activists.
So how do you reframe the issue – selling Smart Meters as a way to take control rather than a way to lose control (which is what the vocal minority is focused on when they accuse Smart Meters of being “spy meters,” producing inaccurate readings or creating health problems)?
You fight fire with fire.
A little more than half of the Americans who we categorize as Cautious Conservatives (which make up 27% of the population, so we’re talking about roughly 13% of the total American population) are in favor of Smart Meters and all the programs that stem from them – Time of Use Billing, Direct Load Control, etc. They’re in favor of them because they buy the promise that Smart Meters will give them more accurate and timely information that will allow them to control their energy costs. They also likely buy the idea that by improving the efficiency of our grid and by giving utilities the ability to better understand and manage their resources we all get to have all the power we want, whenever we want it.
Every utility should identify several high profile, vocal members of their communities who fit this profile, and deploy them to talk to community groups, the media, at public hearings, etc. These folks should write Op-ed pieces, appear on Sunday morning news shows and local news talk radio. And they should proudly display yard signs connoting their support of Smart Meters. Ideally, every utility should deploy this army of support prior to rolling out the devices to get in front of the opposition. If it’s too late for that, go ahead and deploy them now. Beyond control, another reason for the opposition among Americans is simply a feeling that they don’t understand them/they need more information. Use these supportive citizens to get the facts out there. It will sound better coming from them than coming from you (because those who oppose Smart Meters are also generally distrustful of utilities).
Bottom line: many, many more Americans support Smart Meters than oppose them. So don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and don’t get caught off guard by the vocal minority. Get in front of it, deploy your own vocal majority and get the facts out there.