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

Person with Smart Phone

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).

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