Monday, March 16, 2015

Seniors and Smart Grid: Challenges and Opportunities Part II

By Patty Durand, Executive Director, SGCC 

My topic today is a continuation of my last blog post about Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC) webinar on the Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors report. However, I would like to take a closer look into the research portion of the senior consumer analysis.

The Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors study, is an consumer analysis which takes a deeper dive into the data collected from SGCC’s national flagship research series, Consumer Pulse Wave 1-4, which was collected during 2011–2013. This analysis was undertaken to help smart grid stakeholders understand seniors’ awareness, favorability, expectations and preferences as they relate to the smart grid and smart grid-enabled programs/technologies.

In the energy industry, there is no single study that explores seniors’ attitudes toward the smart grid and energy programs. Therefore, this new analysis provides insight for utilities and the smart grid stakeholder community on a demographic that is not well understood. The report puts context around and answers the key question: What benefits do seniors value most from a smarter grid? 

There is no consensus on when someone becomes a senior citizen. For AARP, it’s 50, for the federal government, it’s now 65 (when you receive full Social Security benefits), and for marketing purposes, it’s sometimes 54. For this report, the two senior groupings we used were 55 and older, and 65 and older. These are the ages where notable differences in attitudes and behaviors often emerged. These two groups were then compared to the general population.
The results from the analysis revealed that seniors say “saving money” and “reliability” are the most important and favorable smart grid benefits. Ironically, seniors are less likely than their younger counterparts (18 – 54) to participate in or have an interest in smart grid programs and technologies that have the potential to save them money.
For seniors who had favorable attitudes toward smart meters their primary reason was lower electric costs, while younger people found energy conservation more appealing. Also, more than half of the seniors surveyed said they would participate in critical peak rebate programs.

The study showed that a significant number of seniors (20 percent) indicated they do not know who to look to as a "trusted source" regarding smart grid information – suggesting an opportunity for utilities to position themselves in this role.
One of the top takeaways from the study illustrates that utilities need to be cognizant of media preferences when engaging seniors, who prefer traditional media channels such as print, radio and television. Moreover, their awareness and favorability of the smart grid can be influenced through education on these channels.
The study’s results support SGCC’s fundamental research findings illustrating that an engaged customer is a more satisfied customer. And utilities have the front-line opportunity to engage their customers and shape the relationship. There remain significant opportunities to engage with and educate the senior population about the vast benefits of a cleaner, smarter electric grid.

To download the report and learn more, visit here.