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Survey reveals low-income consumers need financial help to engage in smart energy

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Credit: Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Today, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) released a new report that sheds light on lower-income consumers’ behaviors, attitudes and values on energy efficiency, smart home technology, renewable energy, their electricity providers and climate change.

The “Understanding Lower-Income Consumers and the Smart Energy Future” report was developed from an online national survey administered to 1,000 consumers across the U.S. in August and September 2020. This research defined lower-income consumers as those earning less than $50,000 annually. Further analysis delineated consumers earning less than $25,000 as low-income consumers and those earning over $25,000 as moderate-income consumers.

The report found that lower-income consumers’ values largely align with those of higher-income Americans. Saving money is the primary driver of energy decision-making – a finding consistent with SECC’s past research. About half (forty-seven percent) of lower-income consumers cited “the money I can save” as their primary thought when they consider energy-saving options. Also, eighty-one percent of lower-income consumers expressed considerable concern for the environment and support for investments in clean energy.

However, this research also revealed significant financial obstacles for lower-income consumers. According to ACEEE, low-income households experience disproportionately higher energy burdens, yet the majority of lower-income consumers are unaware of financial assistance programs to help pay bills or install energy-efficient upgrades.

Fifty-four percent of low-income consumers are unaware of any bill payment assistance, and only nineteen percent are aware of bill assistance programs from their electricity providers. Awareness is even lower at thirty-three percent. However, once the awareness barrier is broken, ninety percent or more of lower-income consumers will take advantage of the assistance, suggesting that overcoming this communications gap is a major opportunity for stakeholders who want to assist these under-resourced consumers.

The “Understanding Lower-Income Consumers and the Smart Energy Future” report can be downloaded here, and the research team will present a one-hour webinar on the key findings this Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 1:00 p.m. (ET).