Customer demand for new energy technologies like electric vehicle (EV) charging and solar power has more than doubled since 2017. Utilities across the country, with an eye on creating new revenue streams, are increasingly launching EV charging and solar power offerings to meet this growing demand. While many consumers view utilities as natural providers for these offerings, utilities are quickly losing preferred provider status to non-utility third parties.
Overall customer preference for the utility as a solar power provider among interested customers has fallen from 68% last year to 47%. While preference for utilities as a provider of EV charging offerings remains flat, preference for third-party providers has increased by 66%. If preference for third-party providers continues to increase at this rate, they will overtake utilities in consumer preference in three years.
“Utilities are on the verge of one of the greatest marketing and revenue opportunities they have ever had,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Market Strategies International-Morpace. “If they want to capture significant EV charging and solar power market share, utilities need to quickly build and defend their brands as trusted providers of new energy technologies.”
The energy industry research shows customers with low brand trust in their utility have a very high preference for third-party providers, while the utilities with the strongest preference tend to have higher Brand Trust scores as well as strong support for being “trusted energy advisers.”
Provider Preference by Offering Category and Brand Trust
(Brand Trust is measured on a scale of 1–1,000)
Solar power offerings – prefer utility
- Low brand trust: 38 percent
- High brand trust: 47 percent
Solar power offerings – prefer third party
- Low brand trust: 29 percent
- High brand trust: 7 percent
Solar power offerings – no preference
- Low brand trust: 33 percent
- High brand trust: 46 percent
EV charging – prefer utility
- Low brand trust: 38 percent
- High brand trust: 58 percent
EV charging – prefer third party
- Low brand trust: 28 percent
- High brand trust: 19 percent
EV charging – no preference
- Low brand trust: 44 percent
- High brand trust: 33 percent
Nationwide, 14% of utility customers say that they are likely to adopt rooftop solar, community solar, solar hot water or home battery storage within the next six months. While western states like California and Arizona are perceived to be the hottest solar markets, the greatest demand for solar offerings is actually in the South—stretching from Texas to Virginia. Similarly, customers in the South indicate the greatest interest in home or public EV charging offerings.
These and other findings can be found in the Cogent Reports 2018 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement: Residential study by Market Strategies International-Morpace. The study measures the market dynamics of over 65 offerings and customer shopping behaviors of 18 customer segments.
Market Strategies-Morpace conducted surveys among 52,486 residential electric, natural gas and combination utility customers of the 130 largest US utility companies (based on residential customer counts). The sample design uses a combination of quotas and weighting based on US census data to ensure a demographically balanced sample of each evaluated utility’s customers based on age, gender, income, race and ethnicity. Utilities within the same region and of the same type (e.g., electric-only providers) are given equal weight in order to balance the influence of each utility’s customers on survey results. Market Strategies-Morpace will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.
— Solar Builder magazine