Prepay Energy Primed for Growth in Utility Sector

DEFG’s EcoPinion Survey Points to Consumer Preference for More Convenience and Control in Relation to Utility Bills

Washington, DC … DEFG, a management consulting firm specializing in consumers and consumer-facing offerings in the utility sector ( released today EcoPinion No. 21, “Give the People What They Want: Prepay Energy’s Convenience and Control.” DEFG worked with a broad array of market participants and public stakeholders through the Prepay Energy Working Group in late 2014 to survey 1,000 consumers. The national survey examined consumer perceptions and satisfaction levels with prepaid options in general, and took a more in-depth look at consumer awareness and acceptance of prepaid electricity service. For the first time, the survey also asked respondents to consider policy questions related to prepay energy and the smart grid.

“Customers who choose prepay energy as a voluntary option are highly satisfied that their needs are being met in regard to how they pay their utility bills in a manner aligned with their lifestyles and family budgets,” stated Jamie Wimberly, CEO of DEFG. “In particular, prepay energy can be a much preferred alternative to high security deposits and cumbersome payment arrangements.”

The primary findings from the consumer survey are:

  • Prepay in all its manifestations, e.g., reloadable cards, gift cards, etc., is part of an intensifying megatrend in consumer finance with over two-thirds of Americans of all income classes currently using some form of prepay.
  • 33 percent of Americans surveyed who have used prepayment were “very satisfied” and 41 percent were “somewhat satisfied”—for a total of 74 percent—to make purchased or contract for services using prepayment. Younger and more mobile Americans were especially satisfied.
  • The percentage of Americans surveyed who are interested in a voluntary prepaid energy option to pay utility bills decreased from 41 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2014. The decrease could be attributed to less of a perceived need for prepay energy to manage their utility bills as consumers find their footing with an improving economy.
  • The percentage of Americans surveyed interested in a voluntary prepaid energy option remained high. The “top two” box responses (“extremely interested” and “very interested”) represented 17 percent of respondents.
  • The top two reasons that respondents would elect to use prepaid energy are: “you want increased control over energy costs and budget” and “you prefer to pay for energy as you use it and eliminate surprises.”

“Prepay energy has become an interesting test case of the willingness for stakeholders in the utility sector to allow for customer-facing innovation in regard to new products and services,” Wimberly continued. “It challenges a number of the foundational tenets of how the sector has been regulated and organized. Yet, for some consumers at least, it is quite simple: Give the people what they want.”

For a free copy of the report, go to: http://defg.local/publications/ecopinion/

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