New survey reveals consumer perspectives around decarbonisation

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A new survey conducted by Oracle Utilities and research firm Untold Insights reveals what consumers in the US, UK, Canada, France, and Spain think about decarbonisation and climate change.

Of the surveyed 515 US residents and 2,069 consumers in Spain, the UK, Canada, and France, up to 63% have never even heard the word ‘decarbonisation’ or are only vaguely familiar with it. In the US alone, 39% have never heard about the word decarbonisation.

Up to 76% have no or only a slim idea of where their carbon emissions come from. In the US, 67% of the surveyed consumers say the same. However, they are willing to learn more.

Over half (52%) of the respondents said fighting climate change is personally important, and 45% want to reduce their carbon footprint.

The study has also found an increase in utilities setting ambitious net-zero carbon emission goals. Many people recognise the challenge resulting from climate change and are looking for advice from their utility to make meaningful changes, the study has found.

The increase in the number of energy providers setting carbon emissions reductions plans is stemming from the ambitious climate action targets being set by governments. The world’s biggest economies including China, the US, Europe and the UK, which are also the world’s largest carbon emitters, have this week revised their ambitious climate change targets by setting new emissions reductions goals.

Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister, has pledged to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. This is nearly 15 years ahead of the previous target.

Johnson’s announcement follows China and the US agreeing that stronger pledges were required to tackle climate change.

During his Climate Summit, US president Joe Biden is expected to halve the US’ carbon emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

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Sixty percent of people said they would look to advice from their utility to help reduce energy consumption. However, just 20% have taken advantage of these energy-saving insights so far.

Consumers want to go green

  • 41% said they want to reduce reliance on “dirty energy” by transitioning to renewable energy sources
  • 37% noted they have or would shift energy consumption to off-peak times
  • 45% already have or would heat or cool their homes at more optimal times
  • 37% already have or would take steps to reduce their energy use to help avoid blackouts

Consumers see utilities as a trusted advisor and are looking for help

While 21% of respondents recognised their utility for offering helpful energy reduction tips and advice, others added that their provider should:

  • 61% – help reduce their home energy usage
  • 57% – help them use energy at the most efficient times of the day
  • 56% – help them access more renewable electricity

Younger generations leading the green charge, willing to pay more

  • 80% of Millennials and 73% of Gen Z consumers said they were willing to pay more for clean energy; compared to 36% of Baby Boomers
  • 16% of Millennial respondents have already bought or leased an electric vehicle, and 42% of Millennials and 35% of Gen Z consumers plan to do so in the next five years
  • 29% of Gen Z and 26% of Millennials plan to install solar panels in the next 2-5 years
  • 23% of Gen Z and 41% of Millennials noted they have already or in the next year would buy a smart thermostat and let it be controlled by their utility to curb energy use and costs
  • 41% of Millennials noted they have already or in the next year would install a home battery or energy storage device, compared to 18% of Gen Z respondents.

Commenting on carbon emissions targets set by utilities, Paul McDonald, senior director, Oracle Utilities Opower, said: “Influencing customers to act – on a scale we’ve never seen – is critical to achieving those targets quickly and affordably.

“Some utilities are already engaging customers in this journey, and they’ve seen that even small actions from a lot of people can make a big impact on achieving their decarbonisation targets. With extreme weather events increasing and electrification bound to put more strain on the grid, utilities need people to understand that when they use energy can be just as important as conserving it.

“The great thing the survey shows is that consumers are eager to be part of a clean, resilient energy system and want to work with their utility to promote positive change.

“For your typical consumer, knowing is half the battle when it comes to making meaningful changes to energy use. The unmet consumer demand for outreach and help from energy providers is striking, and the business opportunity for utilities to meet that need is real.

“Younger generations are more willing to invest in cutting edge home technology, but coming out of the pandemic, cost remains a significant consideration. Utilities will need to balance the longer-term potential of these technologies with energy efficiency programmes, which many utilities have adopted and deliver proven energy-savings results.”

The report is available for download.