Picture credit: SECC

The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) today released a new report that sheds light on lower-income consumers’ behaviours, attitudes and values as they relate to 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. 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.

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The report found that lower-income consumers’ values largely align with those of higher-income Americans. As expected, saving money is the primary driver of energy decision-making – a finding consistent with SECC’s past research. About half (47%) of lower-income consumers cited “the money I can save” as their primary thought when they consider energy-saving options. Lower-income consumers also expressed considerable concern for the environment and support for investments in clean energy: eighty-one per cent value these two priorities.

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 report found that the majority of lower-income consumers are unaware of financial assistance programs to help pay bills or install energy-efficient upgrades. Fifty-four per cent of low-income consumers are unaware of any bill payment assistance, and only 19% are aware of bill assistance programs from their electricity providers. Awareness is even lower for energy efficiency upgrade programs (33%) – one of the best tools for consumers who want to lower their electricity consumption and bills. However, once the awareness barrier is broken, 90% 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, 18 November at 1 pm (ET).