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SECC’s New Research on the Needs and Wants of Renters

By Crystal Leaver on

Tenants receiving property keys

Renters, for many utilities, are challenging to engage. But this segment is more concerned about their energy bills than other segments, and are less likely to think that their energy bill is affordable. The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative surveyed over 1,000 residential customers to understand what renter’s attitudes are towards energy, what programs and offers renters are aware of, and what the barriers are in uptake of offers. Here are a couple of takeaways from the survey: 

Motivations to be More Energy Efficient

Renters strongly associate saving energy with saving money, and want to keep their bills low. They are particularly concerned about the cost of new appliances. Renters are generally more energy and environmentally conscious than the general population. 

High Interest in Electric Vehicles

Half of renters surveyed said that they wanted to own an electric vehicle (EV) in the future, but most can’t afford them now. 64% of those who don’t own an EV say they are too expensive and 40% say there aren’t enough charging stations. 

They’ve Had More Challenges Paying Their Bills

One-quarter of renters have made a late rent or electric bill payment in the past year while 25% say they have prioritized paying other bills over their electricity bill. Many are receiving more financial assistance, but not everyone mentioned needing help in the survey.

Lower-income Renters are Not as Engaged

The vast majority of lower-income renters do not look for information about energy saving programs despite their benefits. To engage this group of renters, utilities need to promote them to this segment while making it easy to understand the cost savings. 

Landlords are a Big Barrier

Renters value efficiency features and want upgrades, but often feel defeated or think that their landlord won’t approve any requests. Renters also don’t want their rent to increase. Early buy-in from landlords is important so that they are supportive, and will require utility outreach. 


Renters are an important, yet challenging segment to reach, with a deeper relationship benefiting both the utility and the renter. The research shows important opportunities in helping these customers save money (and making the energy saving potential clear in promotions), making EVs more accessible, helping customers get help with their bills, and engaging landlords so that they are more proactive and receptive to energy efficiency requests.

To learn more about the research and what utilities can do to increase residential renter engagement, check out SECC’s report. 

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