Oracle announced on Tuesday the results of a research report that surveyed 150 North American C-level utility executives to understand their vision for the next 10 years concerning how the smart grid will evolve in our communities and homes and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Among the key findings of "Smart Grid Challenges & Choices: Utility Executives’ Vision for the New Decade": When asked to select their top two smart grid priorities over the next 10 years, executives put improving service reliability (45%) and implementing smart metering (41%) at the top of the list.

However, only one in five respondents said that they are moving forward with systemwide smart grid deployment. Forty-nine percent of large utilities (with more than 100,000 customers) and 18% of small to midsize utilities (with fewer than 100,000 customers) are taking steps forward with trial programs.

Nearly all respondents noted that consumers will benefit from a smart grid. Eighty-six percent of large utilities and 82% of small to midsize utilities said that a smart grid will provide consumers with energy usage information that will enable smarter choices.

However, when asked to note the most troublesome issues that keep them up at night, executives identified consumer reactions to rate increases (43%) as their top worry.

Utility executives recommended "sharing best practices with peers" and "developing an information architecture strategy" as the top drivers for smart grid success.

One example of a utility currently having challenges in introducing smart meters to its customer base involves Oncor’s new use of smart meters in Texas. Complaints about new electronic meters continue to pour in to Oncor. Even after Oncor began a new round of meter testing in Grand Prairie on Thursday, North Texans gathered at Oncor headquarters in downtown Dallas to protest their "unusually high" electric bills.

According to Oncor, when the company performed past smart meter tests in other Texas cities, including Temple, Killeen, and Oak Cliff, there were no significant increases. In those tests, Oncor found the readings from the old meters and the new advanced meters were almost always exactly the same. There were a few readings that had a difference of no more than 2 kilowatt-hours.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is conducting its own independent tests of the new smart meters. Results are due out before the start of summer.

Sources: Oracle, CBS 11 TV