Project gets inside the minds of energy users

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Project gets inside the minds of energy users

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USC Lecturer in Marketing Dr Rory Mulcahy

3 April 2017

As the Federal Government orders a review of retail electricity prices, USC is involved in a national collaborative research project seeking to better understand the psychology of power users.

USC has joined with project manager Brisbane City Council’s CitySmart and research partner QUT to determine how different households make decisions about energy use.

Researchers, including USC Lecturer in Marketing Dr Rory Mulcahy, have just completed an Australian-wide smart phone survey of more than 1000 people on their views of power prices and their feelings towards electricity providers.

“This is timely research with the Federal Government only last week ordering a review of retail electricity prices to ensure Australians get a better deal for their energy,” said Dr Mulcahy, who is based at USC’s Fraser Coast campus.

“The recent string of major power outages in South Australia also highlights how important it is to find ways to match the expectations of consumers with industry so demand on the power grid is reduced, and households save on their power bills.”

Dr Mulcahy said the survey included questions about households’ understanding of electricity bills and their willingness to use technology to reduce usage and secure the best energy deals.

The first stage of the project involved focus groups with households from about 10 regional and capital cities across Australia, including Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Dubbo and Sydney.

“Our preliminary findings show there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to energy users and that many consumers find energy costs and tariffs confusing,” Dr Mulcahy said.

“By getting inside the minds of consumers, this project will develop strategies for energy providers to best engage and educate different household groups about adjusting their power use to make the most of off-peak savings.”

Energy retailers from all Australian states are partners on the project, which is funded by a $200,000 grant from Energy Consumers Australia. The findings are due to be released in a public report in the next few months.

— Clare McKay

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