A recent study performed by Accenture (a leading global professional services company) discovered that LESS than one-fourth of consumers trust their local utility company. The falling satisfaction rating seems to be based on the fact that we live in a world that is increasingly reliant on consumer electronics, while we experience more frequent and longer power outages after major storms. The consumer electronics revolution has also had a profound effect on how consumers interact with businesses and most utility companies have been struggling to keep up.
Electricity has quickly become a vital part of our society, and it directly influences how we interact with the rest of the world. When your WIFI goes out in your home or business, everything STOPS. “Energy is quickly becoming much more than a commodity,” the Accenture study states. “It is a product, a platform and a lifestyle enabler that can increasingly be personalized and tailored to deliver on a number of outcomes for energy providers.”
Customers want everything from flexible rate-plan options to the ability to utilize more digital tools, such as email or text bill alerts. Utilities are being charged to build out those solutions, while also needing to improve our antiquated electrical grid.
WHY ARE CONSUMERS UPSET?
As the world has evolved into a social media age, where consumers can get access to nearly anything they desire at the click of their finger in a matter of seconds, utilities are lagging behind. A lack of easily accessible and understood customer options have most consumers upset that because they do not have a choice which utility services their region. To make matters worse, their local utility company is not attempting to bridge this growing gap in technology.
The result is that people are increasingly looking past the utility to find their desired energy-related services. Tech giants like Apple and Google now offer the “HomeKit” and “Nest” to manage utility costs intelligently. Reputable Retail Energy Suppliers are now providing viable options to assist energy consumers access data, participate in renewable and efficiency programs, and lower their overall cost. More than 70 percent of consumers surveyed by Accenture said they would consider a provider other than the utility for energy services if one were available.
Energy consumers do not have a choice on who their utility company is. If you live in Chicago, Commonwealth Edison is the only game in town. But being beholden to your local monopoly utility for energy delivery does not mean you do not have a choice. You do have choices.
Below are 5 key things that energy customers, both commercial and residential, can do to offset the ever-rising cost of energy that is occurring at the same time when we are consuming more and more electricity every day.
1) Energy Efficiency:
Energy efficiency has come a long way since President Jimmy Carter told Americans to turn down their thermostats. Energy efficient products such as refrigerators, air conditioning, and even lightbulbs exist today. With these new energy efficient appliances, the average American spent $2,500 less on energy in 2014 than if no improvements had been made – according to a June 2015 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
With the Clean Power Plan, released in August 2015 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. power plants are being forced to cut carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below their 2005 levels, by 2030. Experts believe this could lead to yet more rate increases in consumer energy bills. However, an analysis by the EPA claims that investments in energy efficiency could help offset these new regulations to the point of possibly lowering consumers’ energy bills.
ELECTRIC RATES CONTINUE TO SOAR
Utilities are not really able to unilaterally increase the cost of electricity whenever it suits them. State laws require utilities to make a formal proposal (called a tariff) through the state’s public utility commission. To offset these utility rate increases, some consumers are turning to solar energy options.
2) Solar Energy
Going solar is an option that consumers have at their disposal. It is a means to take more control over the energy they are using, and an opportunity to reduce their overall cost on their utility bills. However, there are legislative constraints in some areas that are making it increasingly difficult for energy customers to take advantage of this renewable option.
In Hawaii, where over 12 percent of homes currently have solar panels installed, Hawaiian Electric (the local utility) has delayed additional homeowners from installing solar panels until the utility system upgrades can better handle the flow of energy back to the grid. The utility also wants to start charging all new solar customers an extra $16 per month solar service fee (tax). They would also like to abolish the “net metering” program, which allows for solar customers to sell their excess electricity back to the utility when they generate more electricity than they consume. These measures could have a significant impact on how long it takes for solar customers to payoff their newly purchased solar equipment.
3) Utility Incentive Programs
Some utilities are providing programs and services that help their customers save energy and money by providing industry expertise along with their product. Green Mountain Power, the local utility in Vermont, is reinventing itself as a “complete” energy provider. They started off by leasing high-efficiency heat pumps to consumers to absorb the burden of purchasing them outright. Green Mountain also plans to offer the Tesla PowerWall, a home battery system, to their customers to allow for storage of power generated by a solar rooftop system.
Other local utilities are implementing Time-of-Use (TOU) meter rates. This directly and intelligently addresses the fact that not all customers use energy the same way or at the same time of day. Consumers benefit from TOU rates by rewarding them to change the way they use their energy, such as setting appliances to run at night, when rates are lower. These measures show what is possible when utilities embrace energy efficiency options as an opportunity to offer improved services to their customers, rather than a threat to their old business practices.
4) Choose an Alternative Energy Provider
Exactly half of the states in the U.S. have some sort of energy deregulation available to consumers. Some like California and Michigan are limited to the number of participants per year. Others like Pennsylvania and New York are wide open for consumers to shop for a lower price for the electricity and natural gas.
Despite this being the easiest and most effective way for consumers to reduce their energy costs, and more importantly, requires no out of pocket expense, only about half of consumers have taken advantage of this opportunity.
Utility companies in deregulated markets are not allowed to profit on the sale of the actual energy supply you consume. They continue to make their profits from the servicing and maintenance of your account. This has produced an environment where utilities have no incentive to shop for the best price for the energy they provide. They simply buy energy from generators, and place it on the grid for you to consume. If you are not with a retail energy provider, you pay whatever the price is set at.
5) CONSUMER EDUCATION
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”
(William Butler Yeats)
Consumer education is both the greatest tool towards energy independence, as well as the least utilized resource by the average American. With utility programs and Federal regulations reading like a Russian novel, most consumers remain uninformed about their utility’s rates and the rules they must adhere to. Energy utility and supplier terms and conditions can read like hieroglyphics to those who have not had the experience of having them explained to them. Understanding the energy market with little or no training becomes the “Di Vinci Code”. This leads to the majority of customers simply opening their utility bill and paying it.
It is normally not a lack of interest in learning, but a lack of knowing where to go, who to trust and how to get started. Consumers need a resource that can cut through the confusion and help identify what is important for their unique energy needs.
NORTH AMERICAN ENERGY ADVISORY CAN HELP
North American Energy Advisory is a consumer advocate that works with energy customers to discover their goals and objectives in order to build an effective energy strategy. The energy strategy integrates the customer’s desire for short term savings with the need to manage long term risk. Once you have an energy strategy in place, it is easier to identify what plans, projects and options are right for you, your home and your business.
Whether you are interested in energy efficiency projects, qualifying for solar rebates for equipment and installation, or choosing a retail energy supplier, North American Energy Advisory can help you navigate through the confusion, which helps you to make educated decisions on your energy service.
For more information on how you can participate in any of the 5 options mentioned above, visit us at http://naea.today/
You can also call one of our senior energy advisors at:
SVP Customer Relations
North American Energy Advisory
This articles was originally posted at: http://naea.today/why-3-out-of-4-consumers-hate-their-local-utility-company-and-5-things-you-can-do-about-it/ on