Utility sustainability initiatives still not hitting home with customers

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Few local electric customers have any idea what their utility is planning to do to improve the environment despite a historic bipartisan infrastructure proposal that calls for the single largest federal investment in clean energy, countless clean-air initiatives launched by local utilities and growing consumer interest in clean energy. According to the J.D. Power 2021 Sustainability Index, released today, just 23% of customers are aware their electric utility has declared a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Consumer awareness and support for climate sustainability initiatives of local electric utilities remains low despite growing national attention on sustainability and the environment,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power. “This is a big issue because utilities are developing a number of sophisticated sustainability strategies and, eventually, customers are going to be asked to fund these investments and modify their electric consumption. If they want customer support, utilities really need to act quickly to increase awareness for their sustainability initiatives.”

Following are some key findings of the 2021 index:

  • Persistently low consumer awareness for utility climate initiatives: The overall sustainability scores for electric utilities evaluated in the study–which are based on consumer awareness, support, engagement and advocacy for their local utility’s climate initiatives–is 27 (on a 100-point scale), up just one point from 2020. Only 23% of electric utility customers say they are aware of their utility’s goals to reduce greenhouse emissions.
  • Lack of faith: Only 46% of customers believe their utility is likely to achieve a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
  • Some utilities show significant improvement: While overall sustainability scores have not moved much, a handful of utilities achieved significant improvement from last year’s study. On a 100-point index scale, they are Alliant Energy (+4.6 points), Avangrid (+4.3), Salt River Project (+3.9), Evergy (+3.1), CMS Energy (+3.0) and Duquesne Light (+3.0).
  • Highest-scoring utilities: NextEra Energy and Sacramento Municipal Utility District have the highest scores in 2021, each with a score of 33.

To review the full list of electric utility companies and cities that are evaluated, along with their index scores, click here.

The J.D. Power Sustainability Index evaluates electric utility customer awareness, support, engagement and advocacy for their local utility’s climate sustainability programs and goals. The index applies to the 35 largest U.S. electric utility companies and cities, each serving 500,000 or more residential customers and is based on responses from 66,494 business and residential electric utility customers and was fielded from June 2020 through May 2021. Additional information is based on the J. D. Power 2021 Sustainability Pulse Study fielded in April 2021.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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