2020 presents opportunities and challenges in the energy industry – especially as it relates to energy trends affecting consumers. Last year, renewable energy accounted for 24 percent of power generated in the U.S., compared to 20 percent coal, marking the first time that renewable energy has taken the lead.
According to Deloitte, renewable energy will enter a new growth phase in 2020. How does this affect consumers, and what are some of the other energy trends that will affect consumers this year?
“The last decade brought nearly a 250 percent growth spike to renewable energy suppliers, which accounts for 4.7 million homes in the U.S. alone,” said Ty Benefiel, CEO of Hero Power, a renewable energy provider that serves northern Illinois.
In a poll by the Environmental Voter Project, 14 percent of respondents listed addressing climate change and protecting the environment as their top priority as voters.
“With climate change an increasing concern among registered voters, expect more consumers to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint with their electricity bill,” Benefiel said. “Customers will be more likely to support 100 percent renewable electricity suppliers if it makes economic sense as well.”
In 2020, Benefiel predicts that customers will also pay more attention to their utility bill. “They’re looking for more information on their current rate, how it compares to the local utility price, and find out when the rate is expected to change,” he said.
In fact, some states are already demanding more transparency on bills. “For instance, in Illinois, the newly enacted HEAT Act requires suppliers to show both their rate and the local utility’s rate on a customer’s electricity bill,” said Benefiel. “And suppliers must notify customers when the rate will change.”
Also, when customers are switched from a fixed rate to a variable rate, Benefiel says these individuals will need to provide written approval that they accept the change.
“As more customers walk away from suppliers feeling that they have been overcharged for their electricity and share their experience, greater transparency will be needed to acquire new customers who fear they could be overcharged.”
And in those states where regulators don’t require these actions, he says that getting on board now to provide more transparency could result in a higher level of trust and better chances of retention.
And the desire for transparency is across the board. “For eco-conscious consumers that do choose a renewable energy supplier, they want to know where their money actually goes,” Benefiel explained. “Transparency on the renewable energy source will be key because customers supporting clean energy efforts are cause-driven.”
Why is that important? Benefiel points to research revealing that when people give charitably, contributing to a single, identifiable source is the greatest motivation.
“The Green-e® certification, the trusted global leader in clean energy certification, provides customers with assurance of the authenticity and uniqueness of the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) purchased on their behalf.” Benefiel’s company is one of the suppliers that has taken extra steps to be transparent with customers by purchasing these RECs to match electricity consumption by customers.
If you’re thinking about getting a solar roof, now’s the time to do it. “This year, there will be a huge push to get systems in because of the phasing out of the renewable energy tax credit,” said Joshua M. Pearce, PhD, Director of the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab at Michigan Technological University.
Pearce advises consumers to get the tax credit while they can. He’s referring to the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. It’s for qualified energy-efficient improvements, like a solar roof or skylight. The reason to do it now is that the tax credit is 26 percent this year, and will only be 22 percent next year, according to Consumer Reports. And after 2022, the tax credit will expire for consumers.
You’ve heard of blackout window shades, but now there’s also blackout switchable glass.
“Smart glass, or switchable glass, is glass that uses advanced technologies to block light and insulate,” explained Tommy Patterson, Director of New Product Development and Technical Training for Glass Doctor. “The glass’ light transmission properties can be affected by light, heat or electricity.”
Patterson says this continues to be one of the most versatile advancements in glass technology. By flipping a switch, you can change the surface of a glass wall or door from clear to opaque or even black. Smart or switchable glass can also be used for energy-efficiency reasons, to regulate how much light and heat is allowed into a room.
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.