The California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) has awarded Silicon Valley Power (SVP) the 2017 Resource Efficiency & Community Service Award for an innovative small business efficiency program. The Small Business Snapshot Audit and Direct Install Program won the Best Energy Program for a Large Municipal Electric Utility at CMUA’s annual meeting in March.
Aimed at business customers with a demand of 200 kilowatts (kW) or less, the program helps the notoriously hard-to-reach sector lower energy bills by installing energy-efficient products. Smaller businesses are the ones that can benefit the most from money- and energy-saving utility programs, observed SVP Public Benefits Manager Mary Medeiros McEnroe. “But they usually don’t have the time, up-front money or awareness to take advantage of utility offerings,” she said.
To overcome those barriers, the utility designed the program to be high-penetration, low-cost and focus on the customer experience. Eligible customers received a free “snapshot” energy audit and a report for energy-saving recommendations. A third-party contractor provided and installed the energy-efficient products, so that the customer did not have to manage the process. “We have offered audits in the past, but without the direct-install component or the contractor relationship,” Medeiros McEnroe explained.
Perhaps the greatest factor in the program’s success was that Silicon Valley Power opted to provide the measures at no cost to the customer. The products included easily installed indoor and some outdoor lighting, exit and open signs, pre-rinse spray valves and faucet aerators.
The program was so popular that Silicon Valley Power extended it two additional years, through Fiscal Year 2016-2017, and added more products. “In the second round, we offered energy-efficient replacements for T-8 or T-12 tubes that weren’t on the market the previous year,” recalled Medeiros McEnroe. “We also added outdoor wall pack light fixtures, which became one of the most popular measures.”
This program marked the first time Silicon Valley Power partnered with the utility consultant Efficiency Services Group, chosen through a competitively bid request for proposals.
The contractor’s field representatives serve as the point of contact for the customers. Working from a detailed customer list the utility provided, the representatives called on small businesses in person, performed the free audits and installed equipment—usually efficient light bulbs— right on the spot. In the case of more expensive outdoor lighting, customers received additional free products they could install themselves if they liked the performance of the “sample,” and representatives returned to inspect the installation.
Win for everyone
Over two phases, the work saved almost 2 million kilowatt-hours for small business customers in Santa Clara, equating to more than $300,000 annually. Customers who were eligible for water efficiency measures also achieved water savings, and Silicon Valley Power gained information on customers’ electricity use that can be used to develop future programs.
The data the program collected also highlighted how different small business customers are from each other. “There is not a lot of overlap,” Medeiros McEnroe pointed out. “But we have been able to mine the information to create more targeted programs.”
For example, the utility is reaching out to food service customers who participated in the small business program to enroll them in an online Food Service Energy Efficiency Expert training program. Based on the data, Silicon Valley Power also target marketed for a rebate for rooftop air conditioning unit controls that it is now rolling out to customers.
WAPA congratulates Silicon Valley Power on earning the CMUA award, and especially on its success in bringing efficiency programs to the small business sector. When it comes to innovation and consumer satisfaction, our customers lead the pack.