Article

How to Inspire Others to Start Using a Smart Meter


There are many good reasons to use a smart meter (credit: Monkey Business Images on Shutterstock)
There are many good reasons to use a smart meter (credit: Monkey Business Images on Shutterstock)

The transition from using fossil fuels to renewable energy is happening, which is excellent news. While we would like it to go faster, it takes time. One of the reasons it takes time is that the technology necessary to incorporate renewable energy sources into the power system must be implemented. For example, the grid's capacity must be regulated using devices and software to ensure that it doesn’t break down during peak energy demand periods. Another reason it takes time to transition to renewable energy sources is that humans require time to adapt to new solutions. While some of us are ready to accept new technologies, others require a certain amount of perceived "pain" before they are ready to adapt (further reading: 7 Reasons Why We Aren’t Making Faster Progress Toward a Healthier Planet). For example, less than 1% of German houses have a smart meter, while over 40% intend to install one. A smart meter is a device that helps us minimize energy use by providing feedback and integrating prosumers into the smart grid. Prosumers are households that not only use but also produce electricity. Smart meters allow for two-way communication between the meter and the central system, providing real-time information about energy use and consumption. A smart meter can also provide non-energy benefits such as automation and interaction. Automation means that the device makes some decisions automatically, whereas interaction means that people can engage with the device, for example through a smartphone app. While more than 40% is already a large amount in Germany, this number will surely increase as more people become familiar with this technology and the comfort, convenience, and other advantages it offers. Also, Germany passed legislation in 2023 making the use of smart meters mandatory from 2025. While this law will increase the number of smart meters via extrinsic motivation, the users who want to use a smart meter today are intrinsically driven. Extrinsic motivation is derived from external causes such as grants, fees, and regulations, whereas intrinsic motivation comes from inside, such as because it is enjoyable or aligns with personal values. This is how we can inspire users to adopt smart meter technology:
The display of a smart meter (credit: aslysun on Shutterstock)
The display of a smart meter (credit: aslysun on Shutterstock)

Hedonic motivation The first way to inspire users to adopt smart meter technology is by pointing out hedonic motivation. Hedonic motivation refers to the enjoyment or pleasure a person feels when using technology. This type of motivation is triggered by the possible interactions with this technology. For example, a smart meter shows how much power is created by solar panels on the roof in real time, and how much electricity is consumed during the day. Other smart devices, such as smart thermostats, which only provide automation without feedback, do not elicit hedonic motivation. The interaction is enjoyable as it allows users to regulate, monitor, and evaluate energy use. The image below shows what feedback from a smart meter can look like. The screenshot on the left is from May, while the one on the right is from September. The bar charts at the top show how much power generated by the solar panels is consumed in the house and how much is sent into the grid. It also shows how much electricity from the solar panels and the grid is used.

The line chart at the bottom shows energy production and consumption throughout the day, as well as a comparison of the amounts generated and consumed. The large green area indicates that far more power was generated than used. As more energy was generated than consumed, energy storage devices would be useful to store the electricity for the night (further reading: “How Energy From Renewable Sources Can Be Stored”).



Screenshots from a smart meter app (credit: Dr. Erlijn van Genuchten)
Screenshots from a smart meter app (credit: Dr. Erlijn van Genuchten)

So, to inspire others to start using a smart meter by triggering hedonic motivation, we can for example tell or – even better – show what our own smart meter feedback looks like, what information is provided, and how we can interact with it. Social influence The second way to inspire users to adopt smart meter technology is by applying social influence. Social influence refers to how other individuals and media, such as the Internet, television, and newspapers, trigger interest in this technology. This means that the social context has a significant impact on how widely and frequently this technology is used. This effect of the social context can be direct and indirect. A direct impact occurs when other individuals or media persuade new consumers to start using a smart meter. An indirect impact occurs when individuals are persuaded to install solar panels, which requires the installation of a smart meter. An example of social influence is advertisements. Advertisements are intended to influence people's views and decisions. Advertisements for smart meters use approaches such as persuasive language, emotional appeals, and social proof, to influence customer behavior and the decision to start using a smart meter. Here is an example of an advertisement for a smart meter:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHzIkLi2j1E

Another example of social influence is the decisions made by others around us. For example, if our neighbors have solar panels placed on their roofs, we may be inspired to follow their good example. I know someone who didn’t want solar panels for years but changed their mind after seeing their neighbor's panels.
When neighbors have installed solar panels, this can inspire us to do the same (credit: Leopictures on Pixabay)
When neighbors have installed solar panels, this can inspire us to do the same (credit: Leopictures on Pixabay)

So, to inspire others to start using a smart meter by applying social influence, we can for example install a small meter ourselves and tell others – both online and offline – that we are now using a smart meter and why. Environmentalism The third way to inspire users to adopt smart meter technology is by stressing environmentalism. Environmentalism refers to our concern for the environment and our activities to protect it. This concern impacts our desire to adopt a smart meter as a smart meter can help us reduce energy use by providing feedback. For example, if we realize that a device consumes a lot of energy at night due to standby mode, we can decide to switch it off instead. It should be noted that currently, environmental concerns have a far lower effect on our intention to use a smart meter than motivation and social influence. This might be because smart meter marketing tends to focus on household improvements rather than energy efficiency. Even when they focus on reducing energy use, like in the video above, the emphasis is typically on financial savings rather than environmental advantages. Another reason for the lower impact of environmentalism is that environmentally conscientious consumers tend to hold a post-materialistic worldview. A post-materialistic worldview is defined by beliefs and aims that prioritize non-material qualities such as personal growth, self-expression, and social justice over material ones such as wealth and status symbols. So, to inspire others to start using a smart meter by stressing environmentalism, we can for example tell others – both online and offline – how the smart meter helped us reduce energy and how much. We can also add the positive impact this reduction has on our environment. Summary So, we can inspire others to start using a smart meter by triggering hedonic motivation, applying social influence, and stressing the environmental benefits. Credit This article is based on: Große-Kreul, F. (2022). What will drive household adoption of smart energy? Insights from a consumer acceptance study in Germany. Utilities Policy, 75, 101333.

About the author
Dr. Erlijn van Genuchten is a an internationally recognized environmental sustainability expert. She is a science communicator, helpings scientists in the fields of nature and sustainability increase the outreach of their results and allowing us all to put scientific insights into practice and contribute to a sustainable future. Erlijn has inspired thousands of people around the world through – for example – her posts on social media, presentations at the United Nations, and her book A Guide to A Healthier Planet published by Springer Nature.
- More about her book “A Guide to a Healthier Planet”:

- Invite Erlijn as speaker:

- Apply for science communication support:
https://www.sustainabledecisions.eu/science-communication



  • Chris Ndungu

    8 w

    The wield of smart meter is great step taken. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1
    • George Kariuki

      12 w

      Bringing technology on board. This is a great innovative device.

      4
      • Boniface Kuria

        12 w

        Smart meter is an excellent device. It is like a fitness tracker but for the environment. I m really excited about it. Lets make more people aware of it since it will encourage people to save on their energy consumption

        4
        • dickson mutai

          12 w

          This multifaceted approach can contribute to a broader acceptance of smart meters. Great way to promote sustainable energy practices

          7
          • Munene Mugambi

            12 w

            The idea of a smart meter is great, I just hope it's accessible to many households who need to monitor their usages and at affordable costs

            7
            • Rashid Kamau

              12 w

              The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it's unstoppable.

              2
              Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
              Post youtube preview with preloading
              youtube overlay

              Write or agree to climate reviews to make businesses and world leaders act. It’s easy and it works.

              Write a climate review

              Voice your opinion on how businesses and organizations impact the climate.
              0 trees planted

              One tree is planted for every climate review written to an organization that is Open for Climate Dialogue™.

              Download the app

              We plant a tree for every new user.

              AppleAndroid