In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, the utility/consumer relationship has already begun to shift. As a new breed of consumer have come to value personalization in almost every aspect of their life–from the accessories for their always present smart phones to their online personas–energy providers have begun to take notice.
In an effort to better understand what consumers want from their energy providers, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative sat down with a variety of consumers from across the country to measure their awareness about new energy technologies and asked them what they want from their energy provider. Here is what we learned, more fully described in our Consumer Voices research.
Many consumers expressed to us that the “one size fits all” mentality is no longer applicable when it comes to electrical consumption. Consumers expressed a desire to see options in terms of rate plans, billing, and smart energy devices that mesh with their individual lifestyles. As one service territory may encompass hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers, it’s essential that energy providers aren’t putting all of their customers into the same bucket. To quote one consumer we spoke with:
“I would like to have options as far as if there was someone else that came in and said, “Hey, these are our plan options,” compared to, “We’re going to change the rate today and that’s just what it is.”
Clean Source of Electricity
A majority of consumers are connecting the dots and understand that traditional source of electrical generation can have a negative impact on the environment. While an increasing number of consumers have expressed an interest in installing rooftop solar panels, many cite the cost of entry or lack of knowledge as the primary barriers to entry. In turn, these consumers are now looking to their energy providers to become stewards of the environment, and want them to begin to incorporate renewable energy into their generation portfolios.
“I personally think that it’s their responsibility. I’ve got kids, and hopefully grandchildren at some point in time. I would like to make sure that they have clean air to breathe”
Savings & Affordability
The one common theme among almost every consumer with whom we spoke was the desire to save money, and reduce their monthly bills. In this case, we’ll let the consumers speak for themselves.
“I'm all about savings… I've always been like that.”
“What I care about is the bottom line, what I have to write a check for. I don’t look at how many kilowatt-hours I used or turn it over to see the month a year ago.”
“Basically I think most people are motivated by saving money.”
Reliability & Communication
As consumers’ interest in in-home displays, daily usage notifications, and smart appliances continues to grow, on the aggregate, consumers still uphold reliability and the ability to communicate with their utility as highly important. Many energy providers are already implementing communications systems–taking advantage of e-mail, text messages, and social media–to alert consumers when there’s an outage, as well as frequent updates to keep them informed of a projected restoration time.
“When there’s a power outage, that’s when I really start to think about my energy provider.”
Convenience & Simplified Technology
Many consumers are interested in easy to use new technologies to help them manage their energy usage. Online portals, smart thermostats, and mobile applications all represent new ways for consumers to engage with their energy providers. Simultaneously, there exists the consumer who acknowledges these new technologies but favor convenience over engagement. Energy providers must assure that there is a viable option to meet both of these needs.
“You just go online and you can program your thermostat at home. If I want to do it from my office, just go online, log in to my account, and you’ll get the numbers, and then just program it from there. It’s very easy. I wonder if people know how easy it is.”
From an alternative perspective:
“I’m all for anything that’s going to improve the environment, improve efficiency, and lower costs for me, anything that meets those requirements, I’m all for it. Outside of that, I’ve got no time for it.”
While many energy providers are already developing and adapting their service offerings to meet the needs of their specific communities, it is important to remember that consumers lie at the heart of every grid. To learn more about what consumers want from their energy providers, I encourage you to download a copy of SGCC’s 2015 Consumer Voices Report.
The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative is a nonprofit organization that works to learn the wants and needs of energy consumers in the United States, encourage the collaborative sharing of best practices in consumer engagement among industry stakeholders, and educate the public about the benefits of the smart grid.