National EPRI survey gauges consumer views on energy utilities during COVID-19

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A national Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) survey on utility customer perceptions during COVID-19 (coronavirus) found that while customers are using more electricity and expecting greater utility assistance during the pandemic, very few are contacting utilities for help with billing.

According to the report, only 8% of customers report being “more likely” to reach out to their utility, and 7% of customers are “more likely” to inquire about alternative rate plans.

However, 40% of respondents expect their utility to provide energy savings advice, 25% expect their utility to offer options to reduce energy use and bills and 26% expect their utility to offer alternative rate plans during the pandemic.

The survey, completed during the week of April 13, sampled 2,000 respondents and includes a margin error of 2.3%.

Additional findings:

  • 21% report an increase in their home energy bills:
    • 49% cite increased energy use from electronic devices
  • Consumers with children schooling at home reported the highest incidence of higher bills and increased energy use:
    • 31% of these consumers indicate higher energy bills
    • 66% of these consumers reported increased use of electronic devices
  • 12% of consumers are “very concerned” about their energy bills:
    • Levels of concern over energy bills are highest in the Northeast
  • 34% of consumers indicated that outside savings are offsetting increases in home energy bills:
    • For consumers working from home as a result of the pandemic, this share is 48%; presumably reflecting reduced vehicle miles
  • The economic impacts of the pandemic make most customers less likely to purchase energy technology this year:
    • The pandemic has reduced customer motivation to purchase energy-efficient appliances and enabling devices such as smart thermostats
    • Net intent to purchase an electric vehicle declined, although this may reflect broader decline in consumer intent to purchase any type of vehicle
    • For customers in the Western United States, the pandemic has motivated slightly greater net intent to purchase a rooftop solar system or generator, as well as energy-efficient upgrades to air conditioning, water heating and insulation/windows

“There is a dichotomy in public perceptions reflected in the data,” said EPRI Senior Program Manager Omar Siddiqui. “The responses indicate that while few consumers may reach out to their utilities, many expect their utilities to reach out to them to provide support during this pandemic.”

EPRI conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public.

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