Technology Collaboration Programme

Industry-funded research into customers living in hidden hardship inspires Phase 2 of HTR Task

The two largest electricity retailers in Aotearoa New Zealand, Mercury and Genesis Energy funded HTR Task Leader Dr Sea Rotmann to research customers living in hidden hardship. The industry wanted to work alongside the community to find more effective solutions to the problem of engaging hard-to-reach energy users. We set out to use our Building Blocks of Behaviour Change co-design process and had quite clear ideas about subsegmenting marginalised, stigmatised and criminalised customer groups. We very quickly learned, however, from the many communities we engaged in this research effort that whānau (families) we consider hidden may be active members of their community who simply choose not to engage with us due to lack of trust in corporates generally, and other systemic inequity issues.

As a result, industry set aside the more formal aims of our research and we chose to just listen and take on board what the community was telling us. Whilst we have still gained insights into our initial target group of marginalised customers, more importantly for industry, we now have an abundance of qualitative data that we have been able to theme into four areas where we need to focus our attentions when co-designing interventions and pilots with community partners. We hope that these four major themes will be taken on by other electricity retailers, here and overseas:

  1. Trust is everything – you need to develop it before you can hope to engage with hidden energy users
  2. Listen to the community voice – the community knows who those hidden energy users are, and what they need from industry
  3. Stay in your lane – it doesn’t mean for industry to disengage, but to know when it needs to empower the community instead of providing top-down fixes that don’t work
  4. Develop mana-enhancing practices – to gain trust and respect, industry has to show it is willing to improve cultural competence and prioritise marginalised and underserved communities.

Here is a short video of the report launch in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland on February 13, 2024. This research inspired Phase 2 of the HTR Task, which kicked off in November 2023 and will build on these insights.