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Smart grid, the easy way

By Patty Durand, SGCC Executive Director

Last year, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC) Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation research program surveyed over 2,000 U.S. residential electricity consumers to create a holistic segmentation framework categorizing consumers into five distinct segments. The most recent study by SGCC, Consumer Voices 2012, built on these quantitative findings by delivering results from one-one conversations about energy and the smart grid with consumers across the nation, discussing what—and if—they’ve heard about the smart grid, what smart grid benefits they value, and what types of messaging resonate with them the most.

The five segments differ in many ways, especially in terms of how they manage their household energy use. While they say they are interested in saving energy, consumers in the Easy Street segment are least likely to tolerate altering their lifestyle to reduce energy consumption in response to higher energy prices during certain times of day. It isn’t that they’re lazy or don’t care to conserve—it’s just that they favor comfort and convenience.

Demographic profile

The Easy Street segment comprises 20% of the total population of residential U.S. energy consumers. Compared to other segments, members of the Easy Street group have high levels of education and the highest income. Consumers in this segment tend to be middle-aged, with children living at home. They are fairly diverse in terms of ethnic and racial backgrounds: 15% Hispanic and 13% African American.

Energy use

When asked how they use energy in their home, consumers in the Easy Street segment describe their usage as being “free.” They don’t tend to be conservative when it comes to the number of TVs on, lights lit, and thermostat adjusted to temperatures offering the most comfort. Maintaining a sense of freedom to have the front porch and foyer lights on when it’s dark and running the air conditioning when it’s hot are primary priorities for them. Moreover, they can afford their monthly energy expenditures. Nevertheless, they are interested in smart grid-enabled pricing programs to save energy and protect the environment.

TOU program interest

Consumers in the Easy Street segment want demand response programs that integrate smoothly into their lifestyle, as illustrated by the following selected quotes taken from SGCC’s Consumer Voices conversations about this segment’s interest in time-of-use program participation:

“…It sounds good. We would need to consider when we’re going to be home and when we are not…what times of day. And compare that because we watch a lot of TV. My TV is always on until 11:30. I’m still using a lot of energy. But it depends, it depends on the price. I don’t know what you are going to charge me. What is the amount when demand for electricity is lower or the amount when higher? ” 

“This might be difficult. My husband works from home and would the computer usage be an issue? If it wasn’t enough to spike my bill, I think it would be good idea, because on the weekend we are always out and about….I would really need to know what the options are prior to 9PM.” 

“It would depend. I would need to know what the difference in cost would be [if I participated]. When the rates are higher, then I might be turning the lights off. I would definitely participate if there was a difference in cost to see the difference, to see how it could me save money.” 

Common throughout these quotes is that consumers in the Easy Street segment would like to be provided with a sense of what the difference in peak versus non-peak KWh rates would be. Higher financial incentives might spur greater adjustments in their consumption habits. But they would like to evaluate just how much they would save before making a change.  

In addition, alerts or signals automatically demarcating peak start and stop times could make TOU programs more convenient and easier for these consumers to modify their behavior without having to remember start and stop times daily.  

Read the rest of the story on SmartGridNews.com.

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