New study offers invaluable insights about how to engage utility customers on energy efficient behaviors

When given the choice, more people are choosing to use renewable energy and most are making an effort to be efficient in saving electricity. Increasingly, affordable technologies and the growing availability of smart meter data are making it easier for customers to make a range of unprecedented energy choices. The question is, are these innovations reaching all energy customers? Even the most environmentally conscientious or tech-savvy person needs some help in identifying the best opportunities and support to make these choices a better fit with their lifestyles and long-term goals.

New insights

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SECC) newest research offers invaluable insights about making that relationship work. The study, Consumer Values: Moving the Needle on Engagement, reveals the needs and goals of the “selectively engaged” energy consumers, which according to the SECC, comprise about 40 of electricity consumers in the United States that are generally interested but only engage sporadically in energy related behavior. The study also delves into why customers adopt energy efficient technologies and behaviors in the long run and what barriers keep them from doing so, and offers solutions for energy providers and their partners to consider.

By addressing the challenges people face when prompted with the decision to implement measures to manage their energy use or not, utilities can remove barriers and turn them into opportunities to engage and encourage people to invest in home upgrades like “smart” appliances and thermostats. Here are the key takeaways:

Put a price on it: Lower utility bills are the key motivator for the selectively engaged. However, while these consumers are generally interested in energy related upgrades and technologies, they struggle to navigate all the information and program offerings into clear upfront costs estimates and potential dollar savings. Offering easy to understand and personalized data about costs and benefits can help customers make a move on energy efficiency.

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Contextualize benefits: While cost matters, customers need an additional motivator to pull the trigger on energy related home features like HVAC or insulation upgrades. Fortunately, energy efficiency investments are linked to a host of customer and public benefits that the customer might not always be aware of. Educating people about the environmental benefits of energy efficiency or clean energy investments in addition to the potential savings can help them make decisions about energy-related actions more easily.

Make sense of the big picture: It’s important to build deep and personalized customer relationships as the energy industry changes. Rather than one-off upgrades, customers are curious about how they can best stack upgrades to make progress towards long-term energy goals at the lowest cost. With the right tools and support, people can translate energy technologies and energy use data into an actionable roadmap in line with their values and goals.

The engaged consumer

As the electric grid shifts to a more modern and dynamic system, we need to ensure that everyone can participate and take advantage of emerging clean and innovative energy technologies and services. Understanding their needs and goals is fundamental to removing barriers to make energy use decisions easier.

A modern grid can make the electric system more efficient, increase the penetration of renewables, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide cleaner air for all. The SECC report offers actionable insights for energy providers and their partners on how today’s customer could be engaged. Educating and winning over “selectively engaged” customers effectively is crucial in making progress toward a modernized electric grid that benefits customers, utilities and the environment alike.

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