This blog was originally posted on Comverge.com. Itron acquired Comverge on June 1, 2017, and  all future demand response blogs will be posted here. 

Six minutes per year. You’ve seen the figure quoted in PowerPoint presentations and news stories, and heard it mentioned in conversations at conferences. It’s the amount of time, according to a 2010 Accenture study, that the average person spends thinking about their energy use. Updated by Accenture to nine minutes after their 2012 study, it’s still statistically so small that industry professionals could wield it as evidence of the apathy of the average consumer towards energy consumption.

But, now in 2015, I think we can all agree that use of these data points has become an outdated depiction of today’s energy consumer. It’s time to update our understanding of consumer awareness (and change some of those PowerPoint slides as well).

With the emergence of ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks, smartphones, tablets, and other tools that enable consumers to access, process, and act on information like never before, a new digitally enabled consumer has emerged, one that is more engaged with their utility and who actually seeks out value-added service to leverage the relationship. In fact, according to Accenture’s latest study, The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World, 58% of customers would be interested in devices or services that automate home energy management based on their personal preferences.

(Side note: A year ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “How to Engage the New Energy Consumer (Accenture Weighs In),” which looked at how a 2014 Accenture study on the energy consumer corroborated many of the points in my paper Five Best Practices in Engaging Customers for Residential Demand Response. Particularly relevant in light of this discussion.)

This new Accenture report also highlights the tremendous opportunity digital tools provide electric utilities for building stronger relationships with their customer base. The report states that, compared to non-digital consumers, digitally enabled consumers are more satisfied by a substantial margin with their energy provider, are more likely to recommend their current energy provider, and have more trust in their energy provider.1 The apparent conclusion is that, as electric utilities face increased competition for customer mindshare like never before, providing tools to empower customers to become better consumers of energy is a clear path towards driving high rates of satisfaction and successful long-term relationships.

At Comverge, we have long been proponents of providing the energy consumer tools to help them become more engaged. Traditionally, this has been with demand response or dynamic pricing programs. Now we are also providing them with digital tools through the integrated demand response and energy efficiency programs we have recently deployed at several utilities. In support of this discussion, you can read more about our view on the benefits of integrating demand response and energy efficiency programs in a related recent blog post.

Below are some resources we’ve developed to help utilities better understand how to engage today’s energy consumer:

Using these techniques, your customers are likely to spend much more than six (or even nine) minutes a year engaging with you. They will not only become better-educated consumers from their interactions with you, they will also increase their trust with your brand, ultimately leading to a happier and more comfortable relationship with you going forward.

Accenture, “The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World” Page 15, Figure 2.