T&D World Magazine

Report Paints Detailed Portrait of U.S. Residential Energy Consumers -- and What Motivates Them

Residential U.S. electric consumers fall into five distinct segments that influence their willingness to participate in energy management programs, according to the SGCC’s Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study, a national research project conducted for the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative by Market Strategies International.

Unlike other segmentation studies to date, SGCC’s Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study is a nationally representative telephone survey that has been used to create a richer, more actionable segmentation framework. The study spent more than twenty minutes per phone call, delving deeply into beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and demographics. The results were then combined with specific energy data to create meaningful insight into consumer lifestyles, attitudes, values, motivations and communication preferences.

SGCC’s Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study was conducted by telephone from Aug. 15 to Sept. 6, 2011. A national RDD (random digit dialed) landline and cell phone sample was used. To qualify, a respondent had to be over the age of 18 and a head of household. Targeted RDD sample was also used when needed to assure appropriate representation of key ethnic and age groups, and the data were weighted by age, ethnicity, gender and region to align with national population parameters. The margin of error for the total sample size of 1,200 is ± 3.2 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%.

The study presents five distinct profiles of U.S. residential electric consumers:

  • Concerned Greens (31%) are most protective of the environment and supportive of smart grid initiatives. They are highly likely to participate in energy management programs.
  • Young America (23%) doesn’t know much about smart grid but is interested in learning about its potential for environmental benefits and cost savings.
  • Easy Street (20%) consumers have the highest income of any segment and are reluctant to change their personal behaviors.
  • DIY & Save (16%) consumers are frugal and have a do-it-yourself lifestyle. Their biggest concern is providing for their family, not global environmental issues.
  • Traditionals (11%)* are set in their ways and do not see the need for energy reform.

“Utilities that take the time to understand each segment’s characteristics, attitudes, values and motivations can engage their consumers successfully and provide the most appealing smart grid-enabled products and services,” said Patty Durand, SGCC executive director. “The results from this study have the power to change the relationship between utilities and their customers. The day of the faceless ‘rate payer’ gives way to a portrait of a real human being with a unique personality and distinct characteristics.”

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