When it comes to the energy used to power their homes, most consumers aren’t worried about how reliable the supply is, according to the University of Michigan Energy Survey. To be conducted quarterly, the first installment of this new survey found that 75 percent of American consumers feel that the energy they use is dependable.
While the majority of consumers across the country feel their sources of energy in everyday life are reliable when they come home to switch on the lights or turn up the heat, 31 percent of consumers said they worry a great deal or a fair amount about reliability, with most concerns being raised by residents in the bottom third of household income and property values.
The relatively low degree of concern about reliability stands in contrast to consumer views about the affordability of energy. Many more households are worried about cost than they are about reliability, with 55 percent of respondents reporting that they worry a great deal or a fair amount about the affordability of energy.
When surveying consumers, we explained reliability as whether members of their household would be able to get the energy they need when they need it. We found that the biggest differences in consumers’ views of energy reliability were related to household income and property value. A larger share of consumers whose homes were in the top third of property values said they considered their energy to be very reliable, by a factor of nearly 85 percent. However, just 63 percent of consumers in the lowest third of property values said they consider their energy to be very reliable. Compared with homeowners in the lowest third of property values, renters were only slightly more likely to consider their home energy supply to be reliable.
The U-M Energy Survey found very similar results when the results were sorted by household income levels, with subjects in the bottom third of incomes worrying more about reliability than those in the top third of income. But even among the most worried consumers in the lowest income bracket, less than half described themselves as worrying a great deal or a fair amount about the reliability of their energy supply. Income and property values were the most significant factors in the difference in attitudes about reliability – the researchers didn’t find any significant differences by region, among renters vs. homeowners or even by how much respondents said they knew about energy.
We also asked consumers about what source of energy they had in mind when it comes to concern about reliability. Most consumers said electricity, with nearly 66 percent of respondents replying that they would worry about the reliability of electricity. That’s more than three times the number who said natural gas would be of concern for reliability. Gasoline, oil and petroleum ranked third, with roughly 11 percent of respondents saying that it is the source of energy they think about in terms of reliability.
The responses were influenced by where the survey respondents lived. Consumers in the Northeast worried about the reliability of natural gas more than twice as much as those in the South, reflecting the fact that natural gas is used by less than half of households in the South but is used by roughly three-quarters of households in the other regions. Reliable electricity supply was the biggest concern in all regions but was highest in the South, with 75 percent of respondents saying they were concerned. Worries about gasoline supplies and other petroleum-based fuels were fairly consistent across all four regions, with roughly 11 percent of respondents concerned, outweighing natural gas only in the South.