Public awareness key for energy saving

Utility companies must do more to change consumer behaviour to achieve environmental and societal benefits.

June 10, 2009

Utility companies must do more to change consumer behaviour to achieve environmental and societal benefits,  according to Gartner Inc.

A recent survey, conducted by Gartner, found that consumers are generally willing to participate in energy-efficiency programs but are not fully aware of the programs offered by their providers.

Gartner surveyed more than 4,000 households in the U.S. and the U.K. between December 2008 and January 2009, to probe their interest in conducting e-business with their utility providers and particularly their willingness to participate in energy-efficiency programs offered by providers.

“To meet increased pressure from policy makers who see energy efficiency as the key contributor to national energy independence and a means to mitigate the sector’s impact on the environment, utilities must to do more to encourage consumers to take more of an interest in energy efficiency,” said Zarko Sumic, vice president at Gartner.

Mr. Sumic said that the current utility business model was put in place when the primary goal was to provide customers with ever present, reasonably priced energy, but this now trails energy policies and consumer attitudes in many countries.

A number of energy policy initiatives are now being introduced based on the basis that consumers have an interest in participating in energy-efficiency programs. The expectation is that better consumer insight into energy usage will result in voluntary changes in consumption patterns.

However, Gartner’s survey found that in both the U.K and the U.S, more than 50 percent of consumers surveyed said they were unsure if their energy utilities offered energy-efficiency programs. When asked explicitly whether they were interested in participating in such a program, 80 percent of U.S. consumers and 81 percent of U.K. consumers stated that they would participate in energy programs if offered by their utility providers.

“The first conclusion regarding energy efficiency programs is that they are poorly marketed by utilities,” said Mr. Sumic. “The second finding is that in addition to not knowing how to market energy-efficient programs, utilities may not even be that interested in them because the current regulatory framework and the basic cost-plus business model in a regulated utility market are not conducive to energy efficiency.”

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