Our Thinking

11 things utilities need to know about Deloitte’s new study on energy consumer attitudes

  • By Casey Davis-Van Atta
  • May 19, 2014

Who are American energy consumers? What do they want? For utilities grappling with a spate of new challenges, those are billion dollar questions.

Now there’s new data to help reveal the answers. The research arm of Deloitte recently published the results of its fourth annual survey of U.S. energy consumers, which captures the findings of more than 2,000 in-depth interviews with residential and commercial utility customers.

The conclusions were striking — and it’s worth reading the Deloitte’s full synopsis of the report. But here are 11 key insights we’ve pulled out that shed light on what utility customers want and what they expect for the future.

1. Customers plan to use less energy this year. Consistent with what we’ve highlighted on our blog this month, saving energy is a key priority for most households. Deloitte found that more than 1 in 4 residential customers expect to use less energy this year, while fewer than 1 in 10 think they’ll use more.

Deloitte chart 1

2. Many are gearing up to boost efficiency even further. The vast majority of utility customers say they’re turning off the lights and shutting down idle electronics. But they know there are more savings on the table, which is why 47 percent of residential customers are considering better insulating their homes, 46 percent are looking at upgrading appliances, and 43 percent are thinking about buying CFLs.

3. But people still need help lowering their bills. Even if many families want to use less energy, 2 in 3 say they’re doing everything they can to cut consumption already. But they probably aren’t as energy savvy as they think — especially considering that America still wastes the majority of its energy. Deloitte’s finding suggests that consumers need more information about how they can make smart decisions about their energy use.

4. Utilities are the #1 resource for energy management advice. Deloitte’s John McCue notes that “[Consumers] are looking for good decision-making information” when it comes to saving energy. Utilities are in prime position to be their trusted advisers: the survey found that 8 in 10 households receive efficiency tips throughout the year, and most of that information comes from their utilities.

Deloitte chart 2

5. Customers care where their energy comes from. When asked what energy issues concern them the most, 58 percent of consumers said boosting solar power was a top priority, and 45 percent said increasing wind was, too. Those numbers are up from 44 and 30 percent in 2012, respectively.

6. If utilities don’t offer solar, their customers will get it themselves. While just 3 percent say they’ve installed solar panels, more than 1 in 4 households are seriously considering it. The vast majority of them cite lower bills and low-carbon energy as key motivators.

Deloitte chart 3

7. To win Millennials, utilities need to up their game on clean energy and energy efficiency. Deloitte reports that 1 in 3 Gen Y consumers is ready to buy a smart energy app this year, and 2 in 3 would do so if they got a rebate. Nearly half are very interested in installing solar panels if there isn’t a down payment.

8. Businesses are saving tons of energy. In 2011, commercial utility customers reduced their electricity use by 8 percent on average. In 2013, it was 12 percent. Year after year, businesses are making progress on their efficiency goals and proving their ability to cut consumption.

Deloitte chart 4

9. Businesses are taking action because it makes good financial sense. Deloitte found that 2 in 3 businesses are saving energy because it’s a good way to cut costs. One in three businesses also reports that it’s paying close attention to tax credits and rebates that can accelerate efficiency investments.

10. But like residential customers, business customers know they’ve got room to improveWhen making major investment decisions, only 1 in 4 businesses reports that it carefully accounts for associated energy costs.

11. And lack of information is holding them back. Thirty percent of companies say carefully evaluating efficiency’s impact on the bottom line is a challenge, and as a result, they’re not saving as much energy as they could. That’s one reason why regular, insightful feedback from utilities is so important — it lets customers know exactly how cost-effective their efficiency investments are, and what big savings opportunities are still out there.

Deloitte’s findings echo Opower’s own research on what energy consumers want — including lower bills, more information from their utilities, and personalized insights on how to save energy. You can see Deloitte’s full report on their website, and related customer research from Opower here.

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Our Thinking is just that: it’s the place to find out what’s going on right now in the Opower universe. We discuss current perspectives, opinions, ideas, achievements, and events in the burgeoning fields of energy information and utility customer experience.