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National EPRI Survey Studies Pandemic-Related Consumer Views

May 13, 2020
Responses indicate many consumers expect their utilities to reach out to them to provide support during the pandemic.

A national Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) survey regarding the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on utility customer perceptions and consumer activities found that a statistically significant number of customers are using more electricity and expecting greater utility assistance during the pandemic, but fewer than one in 10 are more likely to contact utilities for help with their bills.

"There is a dichotomy in public perceptions reflected in the data," said EPRI Senior Program Manager Omar Siddiqui. "The responses indicate that while few consumers may reach out to their utilities, many expect their utilities to reach out to them to provide support during this pandemic."

  • Only 8% of consumers report being "more likely" to reach out to their utility for help with their energy bills, and 7% of consumers are "more likely" to inquire about alternative rate plans because of the crisis.
  • However, 40% of respondents expect their utility to provide energy savings advice, 25% expect their utility to offer programs and products to help reduce energy use and bills, and 26% expect their utility to offer alternative rate plans during the pandemic.

The nationally representative sample of 2000 respondents includes a margin of error of 2.3%. The survey was completed during the week of April 13.

Other Findings

  • 21% report seeing an increase in their home energy bills:
    • 49% cite increased energy use from electronic devices, the end-use category with the highest incidence of increased energy use
  • Consumers with children schooling at home reported the highest incidence of higher bills and increased energy use:
    • 31% of these consumers indicate higher energy bills
    • 66% of these consumers reported increased use of electronic devices
  • 12% of consumers are "very concerned" about their energy bills:
    • Levels of concern over energy bills are highest in the Northeast, particularly in New York State
  • 34% of consumers indicated that savings from other expenses are offsetting increases in home energy bills:
    • For consumers working from home as a result of the pandemic, this share is 48%, presumably reflecting reduced vehicle miles
  • The economic impacts of the pandemic make most customers less likely to purchase energy technology this year:
    • The pandemic has reduced customer motivation to purchase energy-efficient appliances and enabling devices such as smart thermostats
    • Net intent to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) declined, although this may reflect broader decline in consumer intent to purchase any type of vehicle
    • For customers in the Western United States, the pandemic has motivated slightly greater net intent to purchase a rooftop solar system or generator, and energy-efficient upgrades to air conditioning, water heating, and insulation/windows

For more information and results, visit here.

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