Approximately 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: 81% value these two priorities, according to a recent report from the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC).
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.
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.
However, this research 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.
The report discovered that 54% 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.
To download SECC’s Understanding Lower-Income Consumers and the Smart Energy Future report, click here.