There is a widening knowledge gap between business and residential customers over the benefits of clean energy, according to a new report from Deloitte.
Residential customers remain concerned about climate change, but are primarily motivated by cost. Those customers are less aware of the economic benefits of, or even the availability of, options such as solar-plus-storage pairings, compared to business customers.
The key to closing the gap is effectively communicating cost and other benefits of renewables to those customers, according to Deloitte executives. And communication technologies are improving as more players come into the power sector, increasing competition.
As the power sector diversifies, the traditional utility is finding itself pushed toward innovation, particularly as cheaper renewables prices lure more players into the power sector and concern over climate change increases consumer demand for cleaner power.
But that demand can be tempered by a continuing focus on cost and lack of knowledge regarding clean energy options.
"As we see others getting into the mix … the focus is on the consumer," Marlene Motyka, US and global renewable energy leader at Deloitte, told Utility Dive. "And I think whoever kind of wins the consumer, so to speak, and understands how to communicate appropriately what the benefits, the cost, etc. [are], is really going to be the winner."
However, interest in green power has been stagnant in the residential sector, while business clean energy interests have taken off.
Some 83% of business customers upped their commitment to renewables after the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report was released last fall, and 63% say they have formal clean resource goals in place, up nine points since 2016. About 66% of business customers also say their own customers are demanding that change.
Residential customers, on the other hand, seem less clear on what their options are when it comes to their energy mix, but more utilities are investing in smart home devices, social media outreach and phone apps as more technology companies see advantages to working with the evolving industry.
"Underneath all the data, [is] the trend of a greater level of sophistication both by the consumer and the business community," Stanley Porter, U.S. energy, resources & industrials leader for Deloitte, told Utility Dive. Customers are beginning to expect more from their power providers, he said.
"I think some of the plateauing and holding pattern of the [residential] consumer is actually due to the better understanding of sophistication. I have choices, but what are they? I have a lot of information I don't understand. So I think the expectation of clarity actually can be looked at as an opportunity."