Millennials (Generation Y) are becoming the largest consumer demographic on the market, overtaking baby boomers. This shift is also helping to redefine customer relationships between clients and utilities, according to a recent report. The report, from consumer advocacy group Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), confirms this shift we are starting to see.
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According to “Spotlight on Millennials,” utilities need to adapt to make sure Generation Y customers are engaged.
SGCC notes millennials are very keen on taking advantage of new energy technologies compared to non-millennials. They are fans of new energy-related technologies, including residential and community solar, electric vehicles, smart appliances, and smarthome concepts including onsite energy storage and device remote controls.
It’s also not surprising that Generation Yers are more willing to look at energy-saving opportunities through web-based technologies (user reports and electricity usage tracking alerts, for example), opening up the possibility that they will have a much better understanding of their energy usage. Even more interesting, over 50% of millennial respondents are willing to pay for real-time information.
Millennials are willing to pay more for investments in renewable energy than other demographics as well. Two-thirds of Generation Yers surveyed said they would support paying for the benefits of a smart grid in order to more smoothly integrate renewable energy electricity sources into the grid. Additionally, 30% of millennials said environmental benefits are the biggest selling feature of a smart grid.
Other recent surveys on millennials have also confirmed support for smart energy technologies. Last year, an Accenture report found that 61% of millennials said they are looking to sign up for smart technology applications to track their energy use over the next 5 years, while 56% stated that they are seeking to add solar power within the same time frame.
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Despite public perception, millennials are mostly happy with their utilities. However, 34% of millennials would also look at other options for electricity providers, including telecommunication companies and solar installers, if available.
Where To Go Now?
Overall, analysis shows millennials are knowledgeable and smart about electricity services and want to use clean energy for their homes while utilizing the power of the Internet.
These “Digital Natives” want to maximize technology to their benefit. They like to use smartphone apps in order to use services, including banking and on-demand taxi services. Why should it be any different with energy?
Many analysts suggest that the future of energy is primarily about building a digitally driven clean economy, including author Jeremy Rifkin, who has argued that the “Internet of Things” will play a fundamental role in building cleantech infrastructure. By building up smart grids with smart energy devices and renewable energy into one nice package, utilities will be at the forefront of consumer services.
The second lesson from the SGCC report is utilities need to work in new ways to keep millennials happy as customers — otherwise, they are willing to look elsewhere if the opportunity arises.
Thanks to energy deregulation and falling renewable energy prices, we are seeing new entrants in the energy provider market, including third-party solar providers like SolarCity (now part of Tesla) and Sunrun, which is now partnering with telecommunications giant Comcast. Millennials will eventually have more choices for energy services than previous generations ever imagined. Utilities will need to keep up to date on technology and renewable energy trends to be at the forefront of providing excellent customer service within 21st century electricity markets.
The last key takeaway is that millennials firmly believe utilities should be environmentally sustainable. SCC notes 38% of millennials are “green champions,” supporting action on reducing climate change. Millennials are big on energy savings. This correlates with a recent report suggesting millennials rank climate change as the biggest challenge facing them. Yes, 97% of scientists agree climate change is real and caused by humans, but the more powerful wakeup call is that we are already seeing some of the harsh effects global heating, including extreme weather events like western US wildfires and Hurricane Harvey, “natural” disasters that have at the very least been amplified by human-caused global heating. Utilities need to invest in renewable energies to keep millennials happy and support the critical clean energy battalion in the battle against climate change.
Utilities will continue to play a vital role within electricity and need to adapt to changing markets and new global challenges. They need to be champions for sustainability during what Thomas Friedman calls an “Age of Acceleration.”