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UVM Theses and Dissertations

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Format:
Online
Author:
Lewandowski, Samantha
Dept./Program:
Department of Community Development and Applied Economics
Year:
2018
Degree:
MS
Abstract:
Residential electricity consumption in the United States has many adverse impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, dependence on fossil fuels, and costs. Efficient and renewable energy technologies have the potential to help mitigate some of these impacts, but appear to be under-utilized in the United States. One major barrier to expanding the deployment of these kinds of technologies and maximizing the benefits they can provide is a lack of consumer engagement. The overall purpose of this thesis is to better understand the extent to which efficient and renewable energy technologies are being engaged with and what factors may influence such engagement (or lack thereof) through case studies on smart meters and a community anaerobic digester system (CADS) in Vermont. In this thesis, engagement involves awareness, support, and utilization. Additionally, a subset of awareness (a precursor to awareness for many) was examined in each of these studies, which is interest in receiving additional information on the technology. While each case study focuses on different aspects of engagement that are unique to each smart meters and CADS, there is some overlap on the topics explored, especially when it comes to awareness of the technology, potential concerns about the technology, and interest in receiving additional information on it. The focus of the first study is on how efficiently smart meters have been utilized by residential electricity customers in Vermont and what factors may influence this. This study was conducted via a statewide telephone survey in Vermont and involved a sample that was statistically representative of the state. These data were analyzed via quantitative analysis. The focus of the second study is on local support of a CADS in Vermont and what factors may influence this. This study was conducted via a mailout survey to houses located in or near the area where the community anaerobic digester was located, and the data were analyzed via quantitative and qualitative analysis. In both studies, limitations to engagement with the technologies were found. In the smart meter study, less than 50% of the surveyed customers reported having a smart meter and, for those who did report having a smart meter, less than 20% of them thought that the smart meter had reduced their electricity use. In the CADS study, 52.1% of respondents reported being familiar with the CADS project, and 69.8% reported support for the project. However, other forms of support for the project, such as WTP for the Cow Power program or willingness to drop of food scraps to the CADS, were more limited. Additionally, a variety of demographic and other factors were found to have a statistically significant impact on or relationship to consumer engagement with these technologies. Overall, the results show that there is some engagement with these technologies, but more can be done to bolster engagement with them. One potential strategy to increase engagement with these technologies may be to tailor outreach according to factors that correspond to different levels of engagement. It is hoped that the results from these studies can be used to help improve consumer engagement with these and other efficient and renewable energy technologies, thus hopefully expanding their utilization and benefits they can provide in the process.