A version of this blog post originally appeared on the Eye on the Grid Blog on Electric Light & Power. Read it here.
Among the many demographic shifts shaping the U.S. today, the rise in renting and decline in homeownership seems largely to have fallen under the radar. According to a 2016 Pew report, more Americans rent now than any time in the past 50 years.
While there are many reasons leading to an increase in renting, the Pew data shows that it isn’t a passing fad; renting has steadily trended upwards for 20 years now. Over the past decade, the total number of U.S. households has grown by nearly eight million, yet the number of households headed by owners has stagnated. Those headed by renters have increased 10 percent.
Further, due to the impact of millennials, this trend seems unlikely to slow any time soon. Millennials currently dominate the ranks of renters, yet their pervasiveness among renters reflects more than their current life stage. According to census data, millennials today are “significantly less likely to own their home than prior generations of young adults when they were the same age”.
While this demographic shift likely has a considerable impact in many industries, it has particular relevance for electric utilities, who are already experiencing transformation from a number of other factors and who have traditionally viewed renters as a difficult-to-reach subset of consumers that aren’t necessarily interested in new energy products and services in the same manner that homeowners are.
However, with an evolving and expanding set of renters, do these entrenched beliefs reflect the present-day truth? To determine the attitudes, interests and behaviors of renters as energy consumers, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative conducted a meta-analysis of three previous consumer studies that included over 5,000 total respondents and more than 1,600 renters.
The resulting “Spotlight on Renters” report provides insight and guidance for electric utilities and other stakeholders throughout the energy ecosystem on renters’ interests in various energy-related technologies, programs and offers, their perceptions and attitudes towards their energy providers and more.