The Project uses its existing databases on customer/company/regulatory agency interaction and energy conservation programs, as well as supplemental surveys and data sources, to conduct research aimed at three basic, overlapping areas of interest.

These areas are:

  • Public policy and utility regulation, including focus on the implementation and impact of current Customer Choice programs and competition in the electric, gas and telephone industries, and low-income payment assistance programs
  • customer/consumer behavior in general and consumer knowledge of utility matters in specific
  • energy conservation, including the physical impacts of conservation measures and behavior, the characteristics of energy savers and non-savers, successful program and policy implementation, and coordination of low-income energy usage conservation programs with other energy efficiency and conservation programs

Although special attention is often given to low-income customers in need of energy and payment assistance, the Project is also concerned with the availability of utility services and programs to all segments of society and to all geographical areas.

The Project focuses on the interface between community agencies, utility customers, companies, and the utility regulatory agency. It examines how a dynamic regulatory environment and constantly evolving utility industry impacts on customer behavior, decision-making, and complaint-voicing. The Project is especially interested in customer knowledge of their available options, the nature and resolution of customer problems and disputes with utility companies, and the types of inquiries and information-seeking behavior that brings customers to contact the Public Utility Commission as either a source of customer information/assistance or as a third-party mediator.

The intent of the CSIS Project is to study these aspects of customer/regulatory agency/utility company interaction and use its findings to assist in distributing consumer information and education, and contributing to academic literature on these subjects. The goal is to promote and increase public awareness of utility regulations and customer rights, and to assist in bringing various customer advocacy groups, customers, agencies and companies together in an exchange of ideas and information.

Where appropriate, the Project attempts to identify gaps in policies and programs that fail to address changing needs in the dynamic utility regulatory environment. Its findings are used to point out the need for changes to existing programs or policies, and to recommend or assist in designing new policies and programs.