Wednesday, August 9, 2017

With REV Underway, Where Is New York on Energy Awareness and Engagement?

With the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, the State of New York has established itself as a leader in re-thinking how electric utilities can transform to better serve customers now and in the future. In 2015, when the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) initiated its REV proceeding, the primary focus was on fundamental changes to the ways that utilities provide distribution services.

Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dramatically expanded REV, and while the
utility issues are still central to the strategy, it has now become an umbrella term for all of the energy initiatives of the State of New York – currently 41 different programs and initiatives across the state, including projects like offshore wind generation. Among the primary goals, REV aims broadly to help consumers make informed decisions, protect the environment, create new jobs and economic opportunities and spur development of new energy products and services. 

With this background in mind, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) partnered with the New York State Smart Grid Consortium (NYSSGC), a public-private partnership that promotes the implementation of a safe, secure and reliable smart grid in New York, to determine the impact of REV, grid modernization and Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI) deployment on New Yorkers’ awareness of and attitudes toward important energy issues.

As part of SGCC’s “Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study – Wave 6”, SGCC and NYSSGC surveyed over 700 New Yorkers via online panel. The results of the surveying were released in July as the “New York Consumer Pulse Study”, a comprehensive look at New Yorker’s awareness and interest in today’s key energy technologies, policies, programs and services, including community solar, smart meters, grid modernization, electric vehicles and clean energy expansion. Here are a few of the standout findings from the report.

Support for REV

The “New York Consumer Pulse Study” highlighted an interesting disparity between the awareness and support of REV. The survey found that only 16 percent of New Yorkers are aware that their state is undertaking a grid modernization effort that includes developing smart grid and smart meter infrastructure, and only one-in-five New Yorkers say that they’re aware of REV. Just three percent state that they have visited REV’s website.

Despite this, half of New Yorkers stated that they would be interested in learning more about REV, and after the REV goals were listed for the survey respondents, 56 percent stated that they were supportive of the goals. There is some variation in the state, however; for nearly all of the above questions, Downstate New Yorkers (those living in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island) report being notably more aware and more supportive.

Support for clean energy and affordability

The “New York Consumer Pulse Study” also investigated support for clean energy investment and expansion across the State of New York. Unlike support for REV, which just cracked 50 percent of respondents, New Yorkers are clear about their support for clean energy investment – regardless of the region of the state. Nearly 80 percent of all New Yorkers support investments in clean energy, and 85 percent of Downstate residents support these efforts. Two-thirds of Downstate New Yorkers also believe that the State of New York should do more to incentivize electric vehicles, and half of all New Yorkers believe the state should promote the development of microgrids.

In addition to the questions on clean energy, the survey also asked respondents about support for energy affordability. A convincing majority (71 percent) of New Yorkers believe that the State of New York should do more to make energy more affordable for lower-income residents. In the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan, 82 percent of residents believe this.

Consumer awareness of the smart grid

In the sixth wave of “Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study”, published in late May, we found that 72 percent of consumers were aware of smart meters and 70 percent were aware of the smart grid. Notably, this was the first time in six studies, dating back to 2011, that a majority of consumers were aware of smart meters and the smart grid.

In New York, consumer awareness of the smart grid and smart meters is slightly lower, but still well above the majority, at 68 and 65 percent, respectively. While in the national sample more consumers were aware of smart meters than the smart grid, New Yorkers are slightly more aware of the smart grid. Unlike many parts of the country, smart meters are only recently being introduced throughout New York, making the stated level awareness somewhat impressive despite it being lower than the national average. So far, only certain customers in the service territories of Avangrid and Consolidated Edison have had smart meters installed.

Conclusion

While consumer awareness in the State of New York seem to be, for the time at least, lagging somewhat behind Governor Cuomo’s forward-thinking initiatives, many New Yorkers, especially those Downstate, are generally supportive of advancements and investments in smart metering, the smart grid and renewable energy. This landscape creates a multitude of opportunities for energy industry stakeholders in New York for consumer education and, ultimately, participation. For more information about New Yorkers and their energy-related awareness, attitudes and preferences, download a complimentary copy of the “New York Consumer Pulse Study” here.


To learn more about the consumer benefits of the smart grid and related technologies and how energy industry stakeholders are moving the needle on realizing these promised benefits, sign up for our Sept. 21 Peer Connect Webinar.