By Kevin Stark

A recent poll should prompt Illinois utilities, nonprofits, and government agencies to question whether their efforts to educate residents about smart meters are reaching a wide enough spectrum of households.

The survey by researchers at the University of Chicago found about 90 percent of white homeowners had heard of smart meters, compared to about 75 percent and 60 percent, respectively, for black and Hispanic homeowners. The percentage of renters aware of smart meters was smaller across all race categories.

In a webinar, Robert Rosner, co-director of the Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) at the University of Chicago, said the team hoped to answer questions about the effectiveness of communications around smart meters.

“The kind of messaging that is targeted at the educated middle class, how does that play out in less educated and less well-to-do communities?” Rosner said. “The kind of messaging that you would make to folks that own their home; does it apply equally well to folks that rent — especially in poor communities?”

The survey was conducted by the independent research institution NORC at the University of Chicago and funded by the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation, which also provides funding to Midwest Energy News.

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