In today’s digital world of connected devices, energy consumers are nearly twice as likely to trust their energy providers to safeguard their personal data than to advise them on energy consumption, according to new research by Accenture.
Accenture’s sixth annual survey this year included more than 11,000 energy consumers in 21 countries. The report, “The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World,” found that 65 percent of consumers showed confidence in their energy providers to secure and protect their personal data and information about their energy usage. This rose to 76 percent among regular users of digital channels.
In contrast, only 36 percent said they trust their energy providers to inform them about actions they can take to optimize their energy use.
“As energy and everyday devices become increasingly connected, an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers’ habits and their households is becoming available, magnifying the importance of digital trust,” said Tony Masella, global managing director of Accenture Energy Consumer Services.
Highlighting this level of digital trust among energy consumers, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents said they would be comfortable with their energy providers’ sharing their data with third parties, although in most cases only with prior permission. In addition, about the same number (62 percent) said they would allow their energy providers’ mobile applications to access their location information, regardless of whether to provide outage information or to inform them about promotions.
“In addition to ensuring customers’ confidence in their data privacy, energy providers can use this information to develop more personalized products and services,” Masella said. “In fact, they must do this to remain competitive, given that barriers to entry are coming down and utilities must now compete with startup digital retailers and new entrants from other industries, which are offering new and bundled solutions and services.”
With the proliferation of new energy-generating technologies, from distributed generation to wireless charging furniture, Accenture’s research also found that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their energy consumption. Two-thirds (66 percent) would be interested in products and services to help them save electricity — up from 56 percent last year — while 69 percent said that they would be interested in participating in an energy management program to help them conserve energy.
More than three-quarters of consumers have taken energy efficiency actions during the past year, including installing energy-efficient lightbulbs (52 percent), reducing appliance usage (34 percent), using appliances in nonpeak times (28 percent) and lowering thermostat settings (28 percent). However, nearly 4 in 10 consumers (38 percent) said they believe that their energy providers are not effective in helping them manage their energy consumption.
In addition to conserving energy, consumers are increasingly interested in generating and storing their own electricity, such as by installing solar panels and home battery storage. More than half (57 percent) said they would consider investing to become power self-sufficient. This varies dramatically among countries, with a much stronger bias toward the economies with lower electrification rates such as South Africa, Indonesia or Brazil, but most (89 percent) of those willing to invest would still want to be connected to the grid for backup power.
“Energy providers can offer new value propositions to their customers, as these products and services are no longer niche market opportunities,” Masella said. “In competitive markets, energy providers can create new revenue streams by offering digital solutions for home-related products and services, such as solar and other home-energy generation platforms, energy efficiency tools or even bundled home services. In a regulated marketplace, opportunities for energy providers include innovative partnerships or digital information services. While interest in new products and services is high and increasing among all energy consumers, our research shows that consumers who use digital channels to interact with their energy provider may represent even greater value.”
Accenture’s six years of global research surveys are based on questionnaire-led interviews with end consumers. Surveys were conducted online in native languages for Accenture by Harris Interactive. The selected countries represent a range of regulated and competitive markets.
In 2015, a total of 11,298 interviews were conducted in 21 countries, including 1,074 in the U.S., 640 in the U.K., 584 in Canada and 500 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.
For residential consumers, the survey sample was statistically representative of the general population in each country, with the exceptions of Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa, where the sample was representative of the urban populations. For countries with large or diverse populations, participants were selected from a broad spectrum of locations. The surveys included attitudinal, behavioral and demographic questions.