A study conducted by J.D. Power shows a disconnect between utility sustainability efforts and customer awareness. Across the United States, electric utilities have set carbon reduction targets to combat climate change and promote sustainability.
While 82% of electric utility customers are served by a utility with stated carbon-reduction goals, only 19% are aware of these targets. Moreover, customer skepticism towards utilities achieving 100% clean energy poses challenges for the industry, according to the J.D. Power 2023 Sustainability Index Report. As the importance of affordability emerges as a primary concern for customers, electric utilities must proactively communicate their efforts to build credibility and garner support.
The Need for Customer Support
Andrew Heath, senior director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power, emphasized that electric utilities require customer support and engagement to achieve their sustainability goals successfully. Without widespread awareness and understanding of sustainability initiatives, utilities risk facing a backlash from customers who question the seriousness of climate change and doubt the feasibility of clean energy plans.
Key Findings of the 2023 Sustainability Index
In the J.D. Power 2023 Sustainability Index Report, 19% of electric utility customers were aware of their company’s commitment to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. The overall sustainability scores for electric utilities, which consider customer awareness, engagement, and advocacy for climate initiatives, remained low at 28 out of 100, unchanged from 2022.
The survey also suggested customer skepticism, with only 26% of respondents believing that utilities will reach their 100% clean energy goals. Additionally, the number of customers who think a lot can be done to reduce climate change has declined from 40% in 2020 to 37% in 2023. Although more than half (53%) of customers view climate change as serious or very serious, doubts persist about utilities’ ability to meet sustainability targets.
The study recognized Sacramento Municipal Utility District as the top performer for the third consecutive year, achieving a score of 35. Other leading utilities included NextEra Energy, Portland General Electric, DTE Energy, and Southern Company, all displaying a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives.
The Importance of the Sustainability Index
The Sustainability Index evaluates electric utility customer awareness, engagement, and support for climate sustainability programs and goals. It covers the 35 largest U.S. electric utility companies and cities, each serving 500,000 or more residential customers. The index aims to promote transparency and encourage utilities to communicate their sustainability efforts effectively.
With the J.D. Power 2023 Sustainability Index revealing such a large gap between sustainability initiatives from utility companies and customer awareness, there is an evident need for more company transparency and customer engagement.