Sharpen public outreach skills at APPA Customer Connections Conference

Communicating with utility customers is becoming an increasingly important part of our job as power providers. The Customer Connections ConferenceRedirecting to a non-government site in Jacksonville, Florida, Oct. 26-29, is an excellent opportunity to explore the challenges of engaging our consumers, and the strategies and tools that can help.

American Public Power Association sponsors this annual event for utility professionals who work in customer service, economic development, energy services, key accounts and public communications. Meet with colleagues from utilities across the country to network and find answers to questions communicators face every day.

Program looks at today, tomorrow
This year’s agenda offers 40 breakout sessions highlighting the latest trends in communication, including:

  • DIY: Creating and Using Compelling Visual Communications
    Learn how to connect with customers through low-cost, easy-to-produce yet high-impact photo and video.
  • Five Ways to Measure What Matters
    Discover the latest trends and tools to measure results for your media relations, website performance, social media and marketing efforts.
  • Are We Communicating Effectively with ALL of Our Customers?
    This session looks at the challenge of engaging different audiences and shares secrets that can help meet the challenge.
  • Taking a Seat at the Strategic Planning Table
    Explore the lifecycle of the strategic plan from creation with utility executives to execution, and communicating with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Public Communication Roundtable
    Join your public communications colleagues for two open discussions on key challenges and tactics for success in the communications field.
  • Surviving the “Info Avalanche”
    Learn tips and tricks to process all the news, articles, feeds, blogs, emails, reminders and tweets that inundate utilities daily. Be ready to share and gain support from fellow infoholics.

Early bird learns more
Those who can make it to Jacksonville early will be rewarded with an impressive menu of pre-conference sessions on Sunday, Oct. 26. These seminars offer a deep dive into hot topics, with smaller classes, longer class times and a more interactive format. Sessions include:

  • Managing Change: Creating a Playbook for Utility Success
    This course will cover how to prepare for some of the most important industry changes that are coming in the next few years (new technologies, environmental regulations, economic pressure, market dynamics, new customer expectations, etc.) and provide practical examples of and a comprehensive approach to developing effective change management and strategic planning skills.
  • Customer Engagement for Advanced Grid Technologies
    A new guidebook to be published by APPA in the summer of 2014 provides information and resources on how to better communicate with customers about new grid technologies and their advantages. The tools and resources in the guidebook will be previewed at this pre-conference seminar.
  • Build Your Brand, Tell Your Story: Developing and Marketing Web & Social Media Content
    Participants will learn how to build a strategic content development plan and use video and social media to broaden the utility’s reach. The instructors will use a public power case study to demonstrate how rich content and social media channels can be used to market stories to media and customers while engaging all audiences.

Both pre-conference seminars and main conference sessions may be eligible for Continuing Education Units, Continuing Professional Education Units or Professional Development Hours. APPA provides a recommended credit level for each session.

Meet, eat, recognize excellence
In addition to abundant education opportunities, you will hear from expert speakers, network with colleagues and honor creativity and ingenuity in communications.

The opening keynote speaker, Dr. Chris Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence,Redirecting to a non-government site will talk about the issues that will dominate the coming year, and how they will affect our communities. Consultant Dennis Snow, a former Disney executive, will wrap up the conference with a presentation on creating a service-driven culture.

Special events include networking receptions hosted by industry sponsors, meals with friends at local restaurants, and “The Year in Public Power Videos” reception. Attendees will view video submissions from other utilities and present their own at an informal reception. Viewers will then vote for their favorite video and the “Audience Choice Award” will be presented at the closing session on Wednesday. All spots must be received by Oct. 10, and a utility representative must be at the conference to present the entry.

Reach small business customers and achieve program success

Free webinar
Aug. 19, 2014

12 p.m. CDT

One area where municipal utilities, electric co-ops and rural community organizers have an edge over their big-city neighbors is in reaching small business owners to help boost individual energy savings and local economic development.

Even in a middle-sized city, it is not too hard to know dozens of your utility’s small business customers. You see them at civic clubs, at church, at your kids’ ball games—or when you visit as a customer for retail or service help.

What a different experience from New York’s ConEdRedirecting to a non-government site. Just a few years ago, the utility admitted to signing up only a few hundred small business customers for energy savings programs from the 250,000 it serves.

So, bask in your small-town communication skills! Imagine how many small businesses you could reach and what a high percentage that is of your total community. But don’t bask for too long. There is a difference between reaching customers and achieving program success. That is subject of Clean Energy Ambassadors’Redirecting to a non-government site (CEA) Aug. 19 Lunchtime Webinar, Lessons Learned about Small Business Energy Savings.

The theme is “Lessons Learned” because there’s no better wisdom than that gained in the field. Moderator Jill Cliburn will be joined by Joni Livingston, Energy Services manager for Missouri River Energy ServicesRedirecting to a non-government site (MRES). The public power joint action agency serves much of CEA territory. Her MRES Bright Energy SolutionsRedirecting to a non-government site program has done a great job of reaching small to medium-sized commercial customers through a variety of channels, including working with local Chambers of Commerce. The program includes seasonal marketing campaigns, including one that is just right for the upcoming fall season.

Participants who don’t come from an MRES community will find Joni’s remarks helpful in customizing their approach for small business customers. Of course, if you are in an MRES community, this could be a timely reminder to tap into the resources that the joint action agency offers.

Cliburn’s presentation will focus on technical tips and advice about customizing the right approach for your community, drawn from Energy Matters for Small Business. The updated guide, authored by Cliburn and published by American Public Power AssociationRedirecting to a non-government site (APPA), has been one of APPA’s top selling resources since it was first released six years ago.  Utilities buy it in bulk to share with their small business customers during energy audits or at meetings with Chambers of Commerce and civic clubs. It is also a “must-have” resource for all utility staff, as everyone from front desk representatives to the linemen should have a reference to answer the questions they face as they mingle with small business people in the community.

Cliburn will highlight five items to answer the question, “What’s changed on the small business energy scene since 2009?” These include changes in the advice you need to give small business energy customers about lighting, controls, and window systems. You’ll also learn more interactive, convenient, and fun ways to turn engagement into action. By the time this lunchtime seminar is done, you should be ready to start a low cost fall campaign that meets both utility and small business goals.

Register today for Lessons Learned about Small Business Energy Savings. There is no cost to participate in the monthly Lunchtime Webinar series. Clean Energy Ambassadors presents the webinars  to highlight issues that affect consumer-owned power providers serving rural areas and small towns in the Great Plains and the West. Discussions are lively and informal opportunities to share ideas with peers. If you have any questions, please contact CEA at 406-969-1040. Source: Clean Energy Ambassadors, 7/30/14

Ideas wanted for 2013 Customer Connections Conference!

The American Public Power Association (APPA) is asking utility professionals to help them design the program for the 2013 Customer Connections Conference Redirecting to a non-government site. The annual event is coming up November 3 to 6, at the Hilton Hotel and Executive Tower in downtown Portland, Ore.

Share your ideas for what you’d like to see on the program by filling out a survey Redirecting to a non-government site by Wednesday, March 20.

The Customer Connections Conference offers informational sessions and roundtable discussions for public power utility professionals in the areas of:

  • Customer services
  • Economic development
  • Energy services
  • Key accounts
  • Public communications

Your suggestions for session topics and speakers will help the planning committee create a program that is relevant and valuable for APPA member utilities. If you have thoughts or suggestions not covered in the official survey, or would rather provide your input directly, please email APPA.

Nominations open for 2013 Public Power Wind Award

Western, the Department of Energy and the American Public Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (APPA) are looking for a public power utility that has distinguished itself in wind power leadership for the 2013 Public Power Wind Award. Nominations are due March 25, 2013.

This marks the 11th year DOE, APPA and Western have collaborated on the Wind Cooperative of the Year award. The Public Power Wind Award provides recognition to public power utilities that have helped make the United States a leader in wind power. Previous winners include: Palo Alto Utilities, Denton Municipal Electric, CPS Energy, Princeton Municipal Light Department, Nebraska Public Power District, Cowlitz and Klickitat PUDs, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Waverley Light and Power, town of Hull, Fort Collins Utilities, Austin Energy, and Aspen Municipal Electric.

A panel of experts from the power and wind industries evaluate nominees in four areas:

  • Corporate leadership
  • Innovative marketing
  • Benefits to customers
  • Project creativity

All APPA member utilities are eligible to apply. Anyone can nominate a public power utility, and self-nominations are allowed. Nominations must be submitted by close of business on March 25, 2013, to Randy Manion, Western Area Power Administration, P.O. Box 28123, Lakewood, CO 80228-8213.

This year’s winner will be recognized at the APPA National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the week of June 14, 2013.

APPA, NRECA applaud DOE move on water heaters

Electric utility groups are applauding the Energy Department’s (DOE) decision to reconsider a rule it issued last year that would limit the size of residential water heaters manufactured after April 2015.

In April 2010, the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency issued a final rule on energy conservation standards for residential water heaters. Electric utility groups feared the rule would interfere with demand-response programs in which consumers allow their utilities to control their water heater’s cycling based on grid conditions.

On June 6, DOE issued a request for information seeking comments on how the rule would affect utility programs that use high-storage-volume (above 55 gallons) electric storage water heaters to reduce peak electricity demand.

The American Public Power Association (APPA) Redirecting to a non-government site, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Redirecting to a non-government site, PJM Interconnection Redirecting to a non-government site and the Steffes Corp. Redirecting to a non-government site issued a statement June 12 applauding the DOE’s move to request more information on this issue.

“APPA is pleased that the Department of Energy has taken this important first step toward relieving the 2010 constraints imposed on electric water heaters in utility demand-response programs,” said President and CEO Mark Crisson. “Large-volume electric water heaters provide an environmentally friendly and cost effective means for utilities to improve overall system efficiency.”

NRECA CEO Glenn English concurred, noting that electric co-ops have relied on the energy storage capacity of residential water heaters to help manage demand on their distribution systems.

DOE will accept comments through July 13. Information on submitting comments can be found in the RFI. APPA encourages its members that have water heater programs to submit information. Read more.

Have your say on residential water heater conservation standards

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently met with American Public Power Association (APPA) regarding rulemaking on energy conservation standards for residential water heaters.  Based on the meetings, APPA created a survey asking utilities about their water heater load control programs.

The results from this survey will give APPA the information needed to continue working with DOE to amend the conservation standards for residential water heaters.  APPA would like to have responses to this survey no later than close of business, Friday, March 9, 2012

This is a great opportunity for Western customers to contribute to rules that will affect their programs into the future. Also, if you have a story to share about water heater load control at your utility, you can contact Energy Services Bulletin. You just may be the next headline story!

APPA Product Store offers Facebook content through eco@home consumer outreach program

Has your utility just launched a Facebook page and now you are scrambling for content to engage your customers?  You might want to check out the APPA Product Store, now offering Facebook content through the eco@home consumer outreach program.

Subscribers to this service will receive postings for each work day that provide daily energy-efficiency information and energy-saving tips for residential customers. Subscriptions to the Facebook content service are on an annual basis. Utilities will receive their posts each month via email.

The APPA Product Store also offers the eco@home quarterly newsletter. The newsletters are co-branded with the utility’s name and contact information and include tips to help public power customers save energy and reduce their costs. The deadline for enrolling in the spring edition of the newsletter is March 1.

For more information or to subscribe to the eco@home newsletter or Facebook content service, contact the APPA Product Store or 202-467-2926.

ACEEE report looks at workplace energy behavior programs

From Public Power Daily  Redirecting to a non-government site, American Public Power Association, Jan. 11, 2012

Energy behavior programs aimed at reducing building energy use through change in employees’ attitudes and behaviors, such as those instituted at the House of Representatives, can help build an energy-efficient office culture, according to a Jan. 10 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Energy savings from the five energy behavior projects studied ranged from 4 percent (from a stand-alone behavior program) to nearly 75 percent (from a comprehensive project in which a behavior program is a component), said the study, Greening Work Styles: Analysis of Energy Behavior Programs in the Workplace Redirecting to a non-government site.

These programs also create benefits that extend beyond the workplace, as participants often become more energy conscious at home and in their communities, ACEEE said.

One program, the “Green the Capitol” initiative, promoted a comprehensive package aimed at reducing energy use, waste and the carbon footprint of the House of Representatives by switching electricity fuel from coal to natural gas, relighting the Capitol dome with compact fluorescent light bulbs, and promoting a series of behavior programs at offices such as turning off computers and other office equipment when not in use, carpooling, commuting by bicycle, and recycling, the report said. Eighteen months after its launch, the Green the Capitol program had reduced the House’s carbon footprint by 74 percent, ACEEE said.

Comparing neighbors’ electricity use drives savings, awareness

Using energy consumption reports and friendly neighborhood competition to motivate customers to save energy was the topic of another Public Power Magazine story in October.

Last year, City Water Light and Power (CWLP) in Springfield, Ill., conducted a pilot program in which 400 randomly-selected households received messages comparing their average energy use to that of their neighbors. Another group of 400 households received messages comparing their average energy use to that of residents citywide. The performance reports also included a summary of total household electric costs and energy use during previous months as compared to others nearby, along with energy conservation tips.

The amount of energy the experimental groups consumed compared to a control group was not significantly different, the utility found after seven months. However, study participants believed the energy performance reports pushed them to conserve.

CWLP’s study is similar the Behavior and Energy Savings program Fort Collins Utilities launched in 2010. That pilot proved successful enough that it is expanding to Loveland, Colo., and other cities in the region.

Read more about using social marketing to reduce consumers’ energy use.

Lincoln Electric System makes plans to reduce load growth

In the October 2011 issue of Public Power Magazine, the American Public Power Association shined a spotlight on Western customer Lincoln Electric System (LES) for its Sustainable Energy Program.

The Nebraska municipal utility launched the program in 2009, even though it offers customers some of the lowest rates in the country. According to LES Energy Services Manager Marc Shkolnick, the Sustainable Energy Program will help keep the rates down by dampening peak load when purchased energy rates are at their highest. Perhaps more important, carefully chosen energy-efficiency measures could help LES put off building a new power plant for up to 10 years.

Learn more about how LES is encouraging customers to change their energy use habits without paying out incentives.