National EPRI Survey Gauges Pandemic-Related Consumer Views

|May 11|magazine9 min read

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A national Electric Power Research Institute survey regarding the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on utility customer perceptions and consumer activities found that a statistically significant number of customers are using more electricity and expecting greater utility assistance during the pandemic, but fewer than one in 10 are more likely to contact utilities for help with their bills.

"There is a dichotomy in public perceptions reflected in the data," said EPRI Senior Program Manager Omar Siddiqui. "The responses indicate that while few consumers may reach out to their utilities, many expect their utilities to reach out to them to provide support during this pandemic."

  • Only 8 percent of consumers report being "more likely" to reach out to their utility for help with their energy bills, and 7 percent of consumers are "more likely" to inquire about alternative rate plans due to the crisis
  • However, 40 percent of respondents expect their utility to provide energy savings advice, 25 percent expect their utility to offer programs and products to help reduce energy use and bills, and 26 percent expect their utility to offer alternative rate plans during the pandemic

The nationally representative sample of 2,000 respondents includes a margin of error of 2.3 percent. The survey was completed during the week of April 13.

Other Findings:

  • 21 percent report seeing an increase in their home energy bills:
    • 49 percent cite increased energy use from electronic devices, the end-use category with the highest incidence of increased energy use
  • Consumers with children schooling at home reported the highest incidence of higher bills and increased energy use:
    • 31 percent of these consumers indicate higher energy bills
    • 66 percent of these consumers reported increased use of electronic devices
  • 12 percent of consumers are "very concerned" about their energy bills:
    • Levels of concern over energy bills are highest in the Northeast, particularly in New York State
  • 34 percent of consumers indicated that savings from other expenses are offsetting increases in home energy bills:
    • For consumers working from home as a result of the pandemic, this share is 48 percent, presumably reflecting reduced vehicle miles
  • The economic impacts of the pandemic make most customers less likely to purchase energy technology this year:
    • The pandemic has reduced customer motivation to purchase energy-efficient appliances and enabling devices such as smart thermostats
    • Net intent to purchase an electric vehicle declined, although this may reflect broader decline in consumer intent to purchase any type of vehicle
    • For customers in the Western United States, the pandemic has motivated slightly greater net intent to purchase a rooftop solar system or generator, and energy-efficient upgrades to air conditioning, water heating, and insulation/windows

For more information and results, please click here.

About EPRI:
The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public, on a non-discriminatory basis. An independent organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI's members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to nearly 40 countries. EPRI's principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

Contact:
Donald Cutler, EPRI
[email protected]
650.847.8077

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SOURCE Electric Power Research Institute