Quarterly Consumer Update: Consumer Focus Group – The Power of Choice

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Last summer, ACCES released a whitepaper detailing the findings of its survey which measured awareness and understanding of energy choice in several U.S. markets. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of consumers being given competitive choices to meet their energy needs. Survey results and statistics are helpful tools to understand a question on a broad level, but in order to really get to the root of what consumers want, ACCES conducted a focus group consisting of energy customers in a state that allows energy choice. The focus group was held on February 12, 2018 and consisted of energy consumers from Maryland. Through these small group discussions, and one-on-one in-depth interviews, ACCES took the opportunity to find out exactly what drives consumers to shop for their energy, and what resources are helpful in making those decisions.

The mission of ACCES is to help consumers better understand and take advantage of the benefits of energy choice. Since its founding, ACCES has worked with energy companies, industry stakeholders, and state regulators to present educational material in an even-handed, accessible manner.

Participants in the focus group ranged from those who were active, engaged retail energy consumers who had shopped with a third-party supplier for years to energy customers who were not even aware they had an option other than their utility for their energy supply needs. Participants all indicated interest in finding out more information about retail energy, specifically the different options available for cost savings, fixed-price, and renewable energy. ACCES is committed to continuing to produce resource materials for consumers to learn more about retail energy options.

Overwhelmingly, participants in the focus groups requested neutral shopping information to be provided by state agencies. Particularly, they are seeking out a resource that would compare offers, include reviews, and offer specifications of individual products. Consumers noted interest in taking advantage of the added value available from third-party suppliers but want the reassurance of having a state-run agency confirm their understanding of the offer. ACCES is available to partner with state public utility commissions to create neutral comparative templates or tools that can be made available to consumers.

In speaking individually with focus-group participants, ACCES found that energy consumers appreciate the opportunity to shop and compare offers. Consumers want to be able to understand the options available, and to feel secure they are selecting the product that is best for their home energy needs.

Over the past year, in speaking with energy consumers from across the country, ACCES has had the chance to understand what motivates consumers when making choices for their homes. ACCES is pleased to be able to offer resources that aid consumers in making these important decisions.

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