Over the last five years, U.S. investor-owned utilities have filed for $36.4 billion to modernize their electric grids, according to Wood Mackenzie, and of these investments, nearly half (43 percent) were “concerned with hardening physical infrastructure in the wake of catastrophic weather events”.
At the same time, extreme weather has been increasing globally, according to a report from the United Nations. In fact, by early September of this year, the United States had already “set a new record for the number of weather disasters in a year that cost $1 billion or more”.
In this context, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC), a nonprofit organization that studies Americans’ energy-related behaviors, interests and values, recently conducted a brief survey of 1,525 consumers to gauge how consumers are feeling about extreme weather events and power outages and how they would like to be informed about these events from their electricity providers.
The “Extreme Weather and Power Outages: Communicating with Customers” survey found that 41 percent of consumers are more concerned with outages today compared to 10 years ago, with 16 percent of respondents saying they are a lot more concerned. According to the nationally representative survey, only 10 percent of Americans are less concerned with outages, while 49 percent reported no change.
While just under half of today’s consumers said that they are more concerned with outages, the survey found that nearly all (91 percent) would like their electricity providers to provide tips and suggestions to help them prepare for extreme weather events and power outages. In fact, 43 percent said that they strongly agree that their electricity providers should be providing this information.
When asked where they would like to see this information, survey respondents stated that email (51 percent), website (39 percent), text message (38 percent) and on-bill information (34 percent) were the best channels for these tips. However, several channels received at least some interest from consumers, suggesting that a multi-channel strategy would work best. Nearly one-in-five (18 percent) would like tips via television, and 15 percent would like to see tips on their provider’s mobile app.
The survey also investigated how consumers would like to be informed when outages do occur in their areas, and the findings suggest that text messaging has become the preferred channel for the majority of consumers (55 percent). However, there are still sizable numbers of customers that prefer other channels, including 16 percent for email, 15 percent for a phone call and 11 percent for an emergency alert push notification. Only two percent of respondents preferred some other means of communication.
This new survey shows that many Americans are concerned with power outages due to increasing extreme weather events. But it also demonstrates that consumers are eagerly looking to their electricity providers as trusted sources of information to help them better prepare for and deal with these challenging circumstances.
To learn more about what Americans think about power outages and extreme weather, view our latest Snapshot Survey infographic here.