EcoPinion Consumer Survey Report No. 27 is focused on low income consumers. The charts display statistically-valid data from a sample of households earning less than $50,000 per year. We conclude that the utility sector needs to seek to provide the best service to those customers with the least.

Low-income consumers continue to have trouble paying electric and heating bills. Over one third of this year’s low-income respondents stated that they had trouble paying their utility bills, which tracks what we found in 2015.

It is very challenging for people to know how to use less energy. When asked how hard it is to use less energy to save money, over two-thirds of respondents stated that it was “nearly impossible” (6%), “very challenging” (24%), or “somewhat hard” (38%).

Consumers keep trying to take actions to save money on electric or heating bills, and are highly interested in learning about ways to save. Low-income customers clearly need more and better ways help to help themselves. Further, they are most comfortable turning to their local utility when requesting help to save energy or lower bills. Because of high customer perceptions of excellent customer service and customer value, utilities are in a good position to help low-income customers.

Over one-half of the respondents were “extremely concerned” (26%) or “concerned” (29%) about paying fees or penalties on their electric bill. Utilities should listen.

Looking ahead, almost two-thirds of respondents felt that a community solar project would provide personal benefits to the respondents, their families and their communities. And two-thirds of respondents stated that a “personal energy savings account” would benefit them. The Low Income Energy Issues Forum (LIEIF) is exploring these two options.