The new BlastPoint-sponsored Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative report, Understanding the Needs and Wants of Renters, shines a spotlight on this key customer demographic. The report reveals that renters care more than the average customer about saving energy and the planet, but that very few of them are actually aware of their energy providers’ EE programs. Understanding renters within a utility’s footprint helps to identify and target them with relevant programs that make a measurable impact.
Why study the needs and wants of renters?
Renter demographics have been changing rapidly over the last few years. Given soaring property values, fewer people in the US are able to afford buying a home. Factoring in the economic instability of Covid-19, stagnant wages, and the high cost of a college education, Americans encounter more barriers to buying a home than previous generations. As a result, residents of all socio-economic backgrounds and ages rent their homes instead of owning.
This changing demographic means that one-size-fits-all outreach to renters won’t be effective. This is particularly true concerning energy efficiency, since renters have less decision-making power around at-home energy use. Meanwhile, renters’ energy usage is higher than average because of factors outside of their control, such as poor insulation, energy-guzzling appliances, and old windows. This drives up their energy bills, making them more likely to fall behind on payments.
For utilities, being able to meet renters where they are and get them engaged in relevant EE programs is a win-win. Renters are able to exert some control over their energy usage, which helps them get back on track with payments and raises customer satisfaction with their energy provider. Utilities are then able to increase enrollment in EE programs, meet benchmarks, cut down on debt from unpaid bills, and improve customer experience scores.
What’s in the report?
The report provides a treasure trove of data derived from a 15-minute online survey taken by 1,000 renters in the United States who are the energy decision-makers of their households. (The SECC weighted the results to ensure a representative sample.) The survey included questions on a variety of topics, including:
- Attitudes towards energy and the environment
- Awareness and interest in energy programs
- Energy efficiency/technology features
- Whether they would pay more for specific features.
Additionally, the SECC conducted interviews with landlords around the US regarding smart energy in their properties. Based on this research, the report tells a data-driven story about how utilities can effectively engage with residential customers who rent their homes. Here are some high-level takeaways for utilities:
- Renters care a lot about saving energy & the environment
- Some EE programs are more relevant to renters than others due to a lack of control of energy usage at home
- Partnering with landlords can be an effective way to remove EE barriers among renters
Download the report here and keep reading to get BlastPoint’s perspective on key takeaways.
What Renters Want
Based on renters’ responses to the SECC survey, there’s very little ambiguity about renters’ energy priorities. For example:
- 96% agreed that saving energy helps save money
- 77% indicated it was important to use energy from a clean source
- 76% said there was more they could do to save energy at home
- 71% are actively looking for more ways to save energy at home
However, despite their clear interest in energy efficiency, nearly half (47%) were completely unaware of the EE programs offered by their energy provider. That’s a fairly significant gap, and it presents a big opportunity for utilities.
Overcoming Renters’ Energy Limitations
EE campaigns that are effective for homeowners will likely not be effective for renters. New appliance or window rebates, insulation grants and other building improvements will be largely irrelevant because renters don’t have decision-making power over their buildings. Moreover, most renters also feel that asking their landlord to make energy-efficient improvements will not be effective and/or will increase the rent – something they obviously want to avoid.
So what can utilities offer renters to make their households more energy efficient? According to the report, renters are interested in the following, which also align with their decision-making capabilities:
- Rate adjustments for energy efficiency (78% interested)
- Free or discounted energy efficiency products (78% interested)
- Access to your energy use data (72% interested)
Specifically, time-varying pricing, demand response, and direct load control programs can offer feasible ways for renters to engage in and benefit from energy efficiency.
Partnering with Landlords
While some EE solutions currently exist for renters, it’s clear that utilities need to get landlords on board in order to equitably engage renters in smart energy. The main barrier is that landlords have little monetary incentive to make EE upgrades without also increasing the rent. In an interview with the SECC, a landlord from New Jersey put it this way: “So, is it really in the landlord’s best interest to make the building energy efficient? The answer’s no. Is it a good thing to do? Absolutely.”
Providing incentives to landlords to weatherize, replace old appliances, and even install EV charging could be a game-changer. In order to do so, utilities need to think about landlords more like customers, segmenting them and conducting targeted outreach.
Get to Know Renters (and Landlords) with Customer Intelligence
How can utilities know which renter segments and landlords to engage within their territory? AI-powered customer intelligence identifies renters within customer databases and utilizes third-party data sources to further understand their motivations and preferences. As a result, utilities can segment and target renters most interested in EE offers, closing the gap between what renters want and their actual engagement with utilities.
Residential Renter Outreach
BlastPoint helped one of our utility partners conduct renter relief outreach at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis. Because many of the same customers who were defaulting on energy bills were also having trouble making rent payments, our partner wanted to make renters in their customer base aware of county-based renter relief programs as well as energy assistance programs. They saw a major boost in engagement, with a 1,000% increase in views for renter relief and customer assistance pages. See the full results below.
BlastPoint also helped a utility partner segment their customers based on propensity for enrolling in EE programs. BlastPoint found that the segment with the highest propensity for EE was low-income and also included a large number of renters. Our partner has therefore been able to ensure that only relevant EE programs are marketed to this segment. Learn more about our Energy Efficiency Solutions here.
Commercial Landlord Segments
Customer intelligence is also applicable to landlords as commercial customers. Understanding which landlords within a utility’s territory are best fits for EE incentives cuts down on resources needed to engage them effectively. Read more about the commercial personas we created for ATCO.
Do you know what percentage of your residential customers are renters?
Getting to know the needs and wants of renters can help your company meet both EE-focused and broader business objectives. Curious about the renters in your footprint? Want to know if your company is among utilities with the highest density of renters? Get in touch to learn your company’s ranking and hear about how BlastPoint’s customer intelligence platform can transform your engagement with renters.