Smart Grid Blowback: Reactions to Videos
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 10:46AM
Dr. Erica Watson-Currie

A recent report from the Department of Energy states: “The ultimate success of the Smart Grid depends on the effectiveness of these devices in attracting and motivating large numbers of consumers.” (DOE_SmartGridExplained.PDF, p. 15)

 Therefore, it is important to assess what the likely predictors are for uptake and/or rejection of these technologies: What are people saying, thinking, and feeling in reaction to early reports on the future of the Smart Grid, Smart Panels, and of energy technologies in general? Is there excitement, confusion, or fear among different identifiable groups? Who are likely to be the early adopters vs. the initial resistors? This study has been undertaken to attempt to catalogue and categorize the existing reactions; in order to begin to determine how best to educate, attract, and motivate the mass of consumers required to make Smart Grid and related technologies a viable success.

 To begin developing an initial baseline reading of public sentiment toward and against Smart Grid, data has been mined from existent discussion and feedback forums. The method is akin to naturalistic observation, but in a virtual realm.  One such rich database where these reactions have been found is in reactions to YouTube videos featuring aspects of Smart Grid projects in development.


The following is a categorized list of sample quotations illustrating some of the main resistance themes.[1]

 Many of these videos come from corporations promoting features and benefits of coming technologies (e.g., General Electric, Siemens, Cisco). Much of the reaction against aspects of these fall into the following categories:







Other comments indicate negative feelings about aspects of the technologies themselves:


One unanticipated finding was the discovery of user-generated resistance and protestations against Smart Grid and related technologies:

These expound on the themes listed above.

 Another observation, videos that specifically mention global warming or climate change as a reason for research, development, and/or adoption of Smart Grid, renewable power sources, energy efficiency, etc. result in a large number of comments refuting global warming as a trick, conspiracy, or scam. Those that instead show other compelling reasons in favor of similar technological advances do not tend to produce comments about it, nor generate the spiral of negativity that often ensues in this forum (e.g., anti-government-funded scientists, anti Al Gore).



[1] In the interest of providing a true picture, I have not “cleaned up” or censored any of the harsher language contained in some. In rare instances, I have provided minimal editing, such as inserting spaces between words for clarity. I have also removed identifying information, such as usernames and links to personal websites.

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