We have entered a brave new world in clean energy. The sector’s rapid advancement in the last decade has earned the topic a place in public and private discourse domestically and abroad. Concepts that once teetered on the tight rope between science and science fiction are now a reality.
Given its seemingly limitless scope, any discussion of clean energy might proceed ad infinitum. Thanks to the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, however, we recently had the opportunity to examine how consumers are responding to one of the most talked about innovations in the utility sector: Smart Grid.
Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative provides stakeholders with consumer perspectives on grid modernization, electricity delivery, and energy use. In 2015, the nonprofit engaged us to conduct The Empowered Consumer study to find out how consumers use Smart Grid-enabled services and technologies and the implications for utility energy programs.
What we did
We collected more than 1,500 online panel surveys from residents across 16 states: nine states with advanced Smart Grid infrastructure and seven control states. We then applied an existing segmentation battery and algorithm to segment audiences and used conjoint analysis to explore consumer interest in and willingness to participate in smart thermostat programs and time-varying rate plans.
While many consumers find Smart Grid-enabled technologies intriguing, they remain uncertain about their benefits, their operation, and control issues. Consumers were most aware of solar panel and mobile-enabled technologies. In terms of next-generation products and services, 69% of consumers expressed an interest in purchasing a smart appliance, and conjoint results revealed that up to 68% of consumers would participate in a well-designed smart-thermostat rebate program. In addition, conjoint analysis demonstrated that up to 55% of consumers would opt into a time-varying rate plan with a modest price premium during daylight hours and a discounted rate at night.
Consumers are primarily interested in purchasing smart energy technologies due to the convenience they provide and their potential to reduce monthly electric bills. Among the barriers to adoption expressed by consumers were concerns relating to device reliability and up-front costs.
Data also showed awareness of and interest in Smart Grid-enabled services and technologies are more closely tied to consumer segment (social, economic, and lifestyle characteristics) rather than the availability of these innovations in their region.
Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative presented the results of this study at the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) Conference in April 2016 and we presented some of the conjoint results at the Behavior Energy and Climate Change conference in October 2016. A brief report is available to anyone on the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative website, and a full report is available to SGCC members, who can use the insights in program planning, design, and marketing efforts.