WASHINGTON — Recent smart grid policy initiatives in the United States and the European Union have led to large-scale research projects investigating the use of real-time feedback technologies that leverage data provided by smart meters. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released a review of this research, “Results from Recent Real-Time Feedback Studies,” which finds residential electricity savings ranging from 0 to 19.5 percent, with average savings of 3.8 percent.

“This level of savings is modest but encouraging, given the number of factors that appear to influence the use of feedback devices,” said Ben Foster, senior analyst at ACEEE and lead author of the report. “While by no means an exhaustive list, these factors include the design of the devices and the types of content they provide, the degree to which these devices enable the various tasks people want to accomplish using the information provided, negotiations between members of the household that influence energy use, and perhaps a predisposition in responding to information about energy use.”

The largest savings of 19.5 percent came from the combination of prepayment and real-time feedback in Northern Irish homes that had a new prepayment meter installed. At the other end of the spectrum, two pilots reviewed in ACEEE’s report found that there was no effect in the aggregate of providing real-time information to households about their electricity use.

A small portion of the population, which the report calls “cyber-sensitives,” appears to be more inclined to save electricity based on real-time information, but this group is currently difficult to identify because it cuts across demographic lines. “This suggests that real-time feedback may be deployed most cost-effectively as a ‘boutique’ energy efficiency strategy,” said Foster, “aimed at groups that are more likely to actively monitor their energy use.”

To read the complete report, go to http://aceee.org/research-report/b122.

Publication date: 03/26/2012