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Engaging Customers in Energy Efficiency: Best Practices for Utilities on Earth Day 2023

Earth Day is an annual reminder of the importance of environmental sustainability and the role we all play in protecting the planet. As the world continues to grapple with the effects of climate change—and falls significantly behind the goals set in the Paris Accord—the need for large-scale energy efficiency initiatives has become more urgent than ever.

For utilities, energy efficiency programs offer a way to reduce costs, meet sustainability goals, and help protect the environment. However, engaging customers in energy efficiency efforts can be a challenge. According to a report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the participation rate in utility energy efficiency programs in the United States ranges from less than 1% to over 20% depending on the program type and region.

Here are five best practices for utilities to engage customers in energy efficiency initiatives and help make a difference this Earth Day and beyond.

1.       Make it Easy and Convenient

One of the most effective ways to engage customers in energy efficiency initiatives is to make them easy to participate in. Customers are more likely to participate in energy efficiency programs if they don't have to jump through hoops to do so. For example, offering online tools that allow customers to easily track their energy usage can be a powerful motivator. These tools can help customers identify areas where they can reduce their energy consumption and make it easier for them to take action.

Another way to make energy efficiency easy and convenient is to offer incentives for customers who participate. Rebates for energy-efficient appliances or LED lighting, for example, can be a strong motivator for customers to make the switch. Incentives can also be gamified through a service like Ohm Connect.

2.       Personalize the Message

Another effective way to engage customers in energy efficiency initiatives is to personalize the message. Customers are more likely to take action when they feel a message is relevant to them. For example, if a customer has a high energy bill, they may be persuaded to shift their habits—a challenging thing to do—if they receive a personalized message about how they could reduce their energy usage.

Personalization can also be achieved through targeted messaging. For example, a utility might send a message to customers in a certain area that are experiencing high energy demand (such as Sacramento in the summer), encouraging them to reduce their energy usage during peak hours.

3.       Educate Customers

Education is key to engaging customers in energy efficiency initiatives. A survey conducted by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative found that only 12% of respondents were very knowledgeable about energy efficiency programs offered by their utility. Even when utilities offer incentives, participation rates can below if customers don’t understand the benefits of the program.

Many customers simply don't know what steps they can take to reduce their energy consumption. By providing education and resources, utilities can help customers understand the impact of their energy usage and what steps they can take to reduce it.

One effective way to educate customers is through energy audits. An energy audit can help customers understand where they are using the most energy and what steps they can take to reduce their energy consumption. Utilities can offer energy audits as a free service or as an incentive for customers to participate in energy efficiency programs.

4.       Provide Feedback

Another effective way to engage customers in energy efficiency initiatives is to provide feedback. When customers can see the impact of their energy-saving efforts, they are more likely to continue to make changes. For example, a utility might provide customers with regular reports on their energy usage, highlighting areas where they have reduced their consumption.

Feedback can also be provided through gamification. For example, a utility might create a competition between customers to see who can reduce their energy usage the most. Customers can track their progress on a leaderboard and receive rewards for their efforts.

5.       Partner with Other Organizations

Finally, partnering with other organizations can be an effective way to engage customers in energy efficiency initiatives. A utility might partner with a local environmental organization to offer a community-wide energy efficiency program. This type of program can create a sense of community and encourage customers to participate in energy-saving efforts.

For example, Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) partnered to develop the Community Energy Dashboard, a free online tool that enables Vermonters to track their energy usage and compare it with other households in their community. Since its launch in 2017, the Community Energy Dashboard has successfully engaged over 1,000households and helped their user reduce their energy usage and environmental impact.

Sitting at the intersection of policy and action, utilities have a major opportunity to impact individuals, households, and the whole community on important climate issues. Energy efficiency initiatives are acritical component of sustainability, and utilities play a key role in engaging customers in these efforts. By prioritizing ways to make energy efficiency more accessible, utilities can make a measurable impact on local, national, and even global efforts on Earth Day and every day.

Launch is at the forefront of innovation – transforming the quest for lower emissions, cleaner energy, and a more sustainable future.

We never forget that people drive technology, not the other way around. Our mission is to energize the movement to reduce consumption and greenhouse gases by developing and deploying software, strategies, and services that push the entire energy ecosystem to create positive change. Everything we build is built in collaboration with our clients and partners to drive modernization in the energy sector.

Read more about Launch's involvement in the Energy Sector and our work in Energy & Sustainability Management Consulting.

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