It has been a busy week on the Smart Energy conference agenda. With a Westminster Forum (UK future energy networks: next steps for smart grid development) event on Monday and the annual Low Carbon Networks fund conference on Tuesday and Wednesday. There were some great talks on the latest technological developments, policy and regulatory challenges and of course some difficult questions on energy prices.
A clear theme throughout was the importance of customer engagement as our grid and energy systems get smarter. There was a strong message from all the major stakeholders that customer engagement is the key to unlock many of the opportunities smart energy systems will create. For example, the customer led network revolution project is already demonstrating some very impressive take up rates, not just for smart meters but a whopping 94% who were given a variable tariff managed to shift their peak consumption; dispelling some of the current scare stories. Perhaps the most pertinent session was on the So La Bristol Project where one of the householders involved in the trial talked about how the project has engaged his whole family in how they now produce and consume energy.
Of course, customer centred design and development is nothing new, but is often overlooked. The various case studies presented over the last few days have shown that people were on the whole keen to engage in this area and that an early dialogue resulted in a better end result.
Perhaps of most significance is that early engagement is also a great opportunity to start the conversation about our changing energy system which will no doubt pay dividends later on down the line.