Consumers are A) angry, B) unfamiliar, C) scared or D) excited when it comes to smart grid.

The answer is E) all of the above, as far as we know.

Enter the Smart Grid Consumer Coalition, a new nonprofit coalition of utilities, academics, smart grid companies and consumer advocates that is hoping to find out what the customer knows and wants when it comes to a 21st-century electrical grid, and how players can deliver their messages so consumers will listen and learn.

This collection of smart grid interests is overdue, as backlash about the pricing, safety and privacy concerns of smart meters gains momentum in California, Texas and beyond.

Richard Walker, President of Control4 Energy Systems, one of the founding members of the coalition, found that when his consumer-oriented home networking company entered the smart grid arena, everyone talked about the promise of the technology but not the people who would need to use it to make that promise a reality.

“It’s really quite shocking how little focus there’s been on educating the consumer on what smart meter technology is,” said Walker. “Most consumers don’t understand why they should even care about this stuff.”

The SGCC hopes to listen then educate -- and fast. Jesse Berst, acting executive director of the SGCC and managing director at GlobalSmartEnergy, said that the organization is already planning studies of consumer behavior and doing a lot of listening. It hopes to start research in April.

The good news is that there is already some data on what they’re up against. Besides the concerns in California and Texas over smart meters, GE recently conducted a study in Australia and the U.S. that found more than three-quarters of consumers are not familiar with the term 'smart grid.' On the upside, of the 11 percent of people who do know about it, nearly all of them were positive about the benefits they would get from the technology.

Berst said the coalition is actively recruiting more members. Current members include Future of Privacy Forum, IBM, Control4, Silver Spring, GE, NREL and various utilities.  The organization will share best practices amongst members as they are developed.

For now, Walker admitted that the coalition will have to play catch-up to allay the concerns (and outrage) that are already out in the public sphere before they can move into crafting public service messages, which the group is planning to do in the near future.

“You’d like to put your best foot forward. But there are a lot of groups who’ve raised valid concerns. So yes, you’ve got to start by attacking that,” said Walker. “If we don’t have the consumer to embrace smart grid, we’re going to be in a whole lot of hurt as an industry.”