Smart Meter 22 Thumb Smart Meter 22 Thumb Photo by Tom Raftery. CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Utility companies are racing to install digital technology that promises to make consumers more informed about their electricity usage -- an effort that in some cases is being funded by government grants.

Ironically a recent survey suggests that a majority of Americans aren't aware of these smart meters, the next-generation technology that makes it possible for two-way communication between households and utility companies. And they also don't know about the smart grid, the interconnected IT backbone and network that will make the smart meters possible.

In fact, 70 percent of Americans haven't even heard the phrase "smart grid" before, according to 1,000 online interviews done by marketing agency EcoAlign and Russell Research in May to gauge consumer perceptions and expectations of smart grid technology. The results were published in a report, Separating Smart Grid from Smart Meters? Consumer Perceptions and Expectations of Smart Grid.

According to EcoAlign's CEO Jamie Wimberly, the lagging awareness is mainly because there aren't enough smart meters installed yet for people to get an understanding, much less a smart grid as a whole to connect them to.

"They haven't heard about it yet because in their communities they don't have smart grid yet. There hasn't been a rationale or context in order to talk with Americans about what smart grid is," he said.

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Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  | 

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.