For the final publication in a series on lower-income energy consumers, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) recently delved into survey responses from 1,000 consumers from across the United States to investigate differences between lower-income Black, People of Color (POC) and White consumers when it comes to smart energy, climate change, the provider-customer relationship and more.
Due to historic racial inequalities in American life, we wanted to see if these inequalities were also present in the electric utility sector. With the ongoing energy transition, making sure these groups are able to participate equitably is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, due to inequalities specific to Black communities, we examined whether discrepancies exist between these consumers and POC households as a whole.
The research revealed specific characteristics and concerns that make Black and POC consumers both more amenable to smart energy technology adoption and harder to engage with existing programs and services. Here are three of the most notable disparities that were uncovered with this research:
1) Black and POC households are more interested in smart energy technologies.
In the online survey, respondents were asked about their interest in eight smart energy technologies (including smart thermostats, community solar, energy management technologies and smart appliances), particularly if their electricity providers were to provide some financial assistance to help them access them.
For all eight of the technologies tested, lower-income Black and POC consumers were considerably more interested than lower-income White consumers. For example, Black and POC consumers were far more likely to say that they are “very interested” in both community and rooftop solar than White households.
There were also notable discrepancies among smart home technologies, such as smart lighting, smart appliances and smart thermostats. Thirty-nine percent of Black consumers and 36 percent of People of Color were “very interested” in smart thermostats, compared with 21 percent of White consumers.