The State of the Utility Bill

Research Report B111

Authors

Ben Foster and Elena Alschuler

Description:

The utility bill is the most common way for utilities to provide information about energy use to their customers, but it is often overlooked both as a way to give customers better control over their energy use and to support utilities’ goals for more actively engaging customers, especially as a part of a smart grid strategy.  Even as smart meters and smart phone apps proliferate, the paper bill has the potential to become a cost-effective feedback device with a broad reach. 

This report provides a preliminary take on the potential for enhancing the utility bill to provide better indirect feedback to utility customers.  Our goals are to present new research on the elements appearing on a sample of 100 current bills, to characterize how these bill elements align with previous research on bill information design, to outline some of the history of bill development, and to understand where the bill might be headed in the future. 

We find that the average customer bill does not provide the level of feedback and connection to program resources that it reasonably might, and we offer recommendations for overcoming barriers to improving the bill.