At this point, what the benefit of smart meters might be for consumers is unclear.

At today’s event, Donald Paul, the former CTO for Chevron, now the Executive Director of the USC Energy Institute, asked, “It remains to be seen [what] the benefit for the customer [will be]. The value for the consumer in the smart grid is not the money savings.  What’s the value proposition?”   

“The smart grid better be cool for consumers — otherwise, they’re not going to adopt it,” according to Gene Wang, CEO of People Power.”The killer app is waiting to be found,” according to Sylvia Burks of law firm Pillsbury.

Conrad Eustis, a Director at Portland General Electric, said, “The killer app is a battery home back-up system, not the one in the EV — we need a transaction cost for that,” adding, “One change in smart appliances will give us 100 gigawatts of capacity.”

The killer app is probably not smart meters.  Those are just “cash registers for the utilities,” according to Jeff Tolnar, the CTO of BPL Global.

Is the killer app the home energy dashboard like those offered by Tendril, EnergyHub and others?

The killer residential energy application engages the energy consumer and places the consumer in a partnership with the utility.  It’s not easy, it’s not sexy and it doesn’t look like a shiny new smart meter.  But it creates a value that the majority of customers understand.

And we haven’t figured it out yet.

So, if I interpret this correctly, “cash registers for the utilities” is the main reason we have spent all this money on these things.