Utility Customers Want More Energy Efficiency, Home Solar


By Scott Thill
This article originally appeared on SolarEnergy.net, and is reprinted with permission.

Thirty percent of Americans would drop their utilities like a bad habit, if they could. Seventy percent would also like their homes optimized for energy efficiency before they move in, thanks very much. And if an intransigent utility happens to go extinct while being replaced by SolarCity or Google, that’s fine too.

These are the mounting popular mandates being handed down to utilities, builders and manufacturers, according to the Tennessee-based Shelton Group‘s 10th annual Energy Pulse study. Especially from minorities and millennials, who are abandoning their loyalties to 20th-century utilities as the 21st century is overtaken by clean tech like home solar and more.

“Where you will be when the dust settles?” the Shelton Group warns its customers, who include some of the largest companies in the world, in and out of the traditional energy space. Because as more Americans are becoming worried about how they will pay for energy, change is coming whether utilities want it or not.

Dividing its total energy efficiency-minded population into working class realists, cautious conservatives, concerned parents and true believers, Shelton’s study finds that most of them have poor memories (especially about “weather unpredictability”), and poorer pockets. Most cited expense when asked to hold forth on why they haven’t made energy-efficiency improvements to their homes, leading Shelton to conclude that customers find utility energy-efficiency programs “poorly structured, insufficiently advertised or supported, [with] low perceived value.”

Shelton also found that the overall cost of energy isn’t expensive enough (yet) for consumers to pay attention, but that is all set to change when the Environmental Protection Agency’s new emissions standards take effect. By the time they are asked to pay more money for the same old service from the same old companies, it’s a safe bet that even more of them will be ready to jump ship.

“Americans are not thrilled with utilities,” Shelton’s study added. And with U.S. millennials and minorities slated to become the majority shortly after 2040, “keeping them is not going to be as simple as keeping the power on and providing good customer service when they call in. For them, technological innovation is expected and is rapidly becoming a factor in dissatisfaction.”

That means cleaner, smarter energy alternatives like solar panels, smart meters, data management, text messaging, mobile apps and much more. Utilities should evolve accordingly or expect abandonment, Shelton’s Energy Pulse advised. They should “already be developing the products, services and pricing plans these customers are interested in to have a hope of maintaining their business.”