Kate Mackenzie How far will householders go for electricity savings?

With the right equipment, utilities can remotely switch off a customer’s energy supply during peak demand periods — even a brief cessation can make a big difference when peak power plants are considered.

This is already an established practice in the US for big commercial electricity users, where it’s known as “demand response” and the saved energy is sold on a secondary market.

But are householders willing to let utilities control their energy consumption and their devices like this?

Only, it seems, if they save enough money.

A survey by Accenture on “electricity management programmes” in 17 countries finds, once again, that price signals are most important - respondents chose increase of cost as the main thing that would discourage them from such a programme, while savings on energy bills would be the main encouragement to adopt such a programme.

The price-versus-control trade-off is illustrated quite clearly here — it equates to 24 per cent support, for a saving of 10 per cent on energy bills, and 35 per cent support for a 20 per cent saving:

Accenture survey - chart of willingness to cede control over energy supply, against cost savings

But Accenture also believes control over use is a potential barrier to take-up too: giving utilities access to personal power use data, having to change entertainment, or having to decrease levels of personal comfort were all in the top five reasons given for not wanting to participate in electricity management.

The survey of 500 people in each of 17 developed countries also suggests that people don’t know what they don’t know about energy: about three quarters of respondents thought they knew enough about energy efficiency, but only 28 per cent knew what electricity management programmes actually are.

To be fair, however, those programmes are not available from all utilities in all countries. The survey also suggested that even those who were averse to such programmes might be susceptible to social pressure, with the majority of respondents saying they would view another person who joined the programme in a more positive light.

Related links:
Consumers drive electricity auctions - FT