As we prepare to gather in San Francisco from October 24-26, 2011 for the Smart Energy International Summit, we will post excerpts of interviews from a few notable speakers to give you a taste of what’s on the agenda for this global industry event. Today, we have an excerpt from the interview with Rick Thompson, president and co-founder of Greentech Media, Inc.

Smart Energy International: How proactive are utilities in communicating, and believing in, the efforts towards sustainability? Especially when it comes to energy efficiency and consuming less of their energy? Is there still a fundamental dichotomy between their business model and the need to consume less power for building a sustainable environment? Or do you feel progressive utilities are genuinely committed to a sustainable agenda?

Thompson: I feel that progressive utilities are absolutely committed and a majority of it is driven by state RPS requirements. Having said that, there do seem to be some potential longer term issues with legacy utility business models that will ultimately need to be resolved to move the industry forward such that it's a win-win for all parties.

Smart Energy International: Is the message of sustainability the key to helping drive wider consumer acceptance of the smart grid? Is it this loftier, more dramatic goal that can succeed where incremental and distant price incentives have failed?

Thompson: I believe the message varies on the type of consumer that's being targeted. For example, where consumer A may be motivated by positive environmental impact, consumer B will be motivated by plain and simple cost savings. I think it's important for utilities to better understand the demographics of their customer base throughout their service territories and market the benefits of smart grid accordingly. This is new territory and will take a lot of work going forward.

For more information on Smart Energy International 2011, visit www.smartenergyinternational.com