Exploring U.S. Seniors’ Perspective Toward the Smart Grid

Exploring U.S. Seniors Perspective Toward the Smart Grid

Understanding customers attitudes, viewpoints, and overall favorability around a modernized electric grid is integral to fully realizing all the benefits the smart grid has to offer.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) recently completed a new consumer analysis, Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors, which takes a deeper dive into the data collected from SGCCs national flagship research series, Consumer Pulse Wave 1-4, which was collected during 20112013.

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. Further, the Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors report answers the key question: What benefits do older Americans value most from a smarter grid?

What did we find?

There is no consensus on when someone becomes a senior citizen. For AARP, its 50, for the federal government, its now 65 (when you receive full Social Security benefits), and for marketing purposes, its 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 older Americans 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 which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day 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, also known as demand response an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed.

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 major takeaways from the report is 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.

SGCCs fundamental research findings illustrate 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.

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

SMART GRID Bulletin April 2017


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