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When will the smart grid investment pay off? Even utilities don't know

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When will smart grid investment turn a profit? According to a new survey, even utility companies don't know.

When will smart grid investment turn a profit?

According to a new survey, even utility companies don't know.

Despite an increase in spending on enabling smart grid technologies in the last 12 months, there is uncertainty and confusion as to when that investment might pay off, according to a Comverge survey of more than 100 attendees of the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego, Calif.

Twenty-seven percent of attendees believed that measurable benefits from the smart grid are at least one to three years away.

Interestingly, the same amount of people -- 29 percent -- believed those benefits were at least 10 years off from becoming a reality.

Regardless of outlook, companies are still investing, and three of every four respondents -- 77 percent -- said that budgets for smart grid investment had increased over the last year.

According to the survey, there is also a lack of confidence as to which energy management technologies will be a part of that vision.

Eighty-nine percent of attendees named smart meters as an investment priority in the coming 12 months.

Forty-eight percent of attendees named smart thermostats as an important energy management product.

Not all tech fared so well: in-home displays and smart outlets trailed on the priority list, indicating that utilities are focused on building infrastructure before empowering consumers.

Illustration: Ecomagination/GE

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure