Recognizing customer needs in the growing residential solar market, Roseville Electric Utility has developed a program to help homeowners make sound decisions about installing solar systems and, in the process, is increasing customer satisfaction.
Solar installers are now marketing more aggressively to consumers who are definitely interested but want to be better informed before investing in a system. This creates an opening for utilities to become trusted energy advisors, said Alanya Schofield, a senior director at consulting firm E Source.
Schofield made her remarks at the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Public Power Forward summit in November and participated in a panel that included Roseville Electric Utility Director Michelle Bertolino. Public Power Forward is an APPA strategic initiative to help public power utilities prepare for a new era in electricity.
Seeing, meeting need
California passed a law in 2015 requiring utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030, increased from the previous goal of 33 percent by 2020. Many public power utilities in the state, however, have been proactively encouraging clean power and energy efficiency for years. Roseville Electric Utility’s Trusted Solar Advisor program is just the latest among many examples.
Roseville Electric Utility launched the program in April 2014, in response to the growing number of customers calling with questions about installing solar arrays. A promotional campaign and workshops followed to introduce the website to customers.
The website provides a starting point for customers who are trying to figure out if solar is right for them. A solar calculator—the WattPlan created by Clean Power Research —allows customers to make cost-benefit comparisons based on electricity use, generation, financing options and system size.
Visitors will also find frequently asked questions and information about rebates Roseville offers for solar installation. The Trusted Solar Advisor stresses the importance of doing efficiency upgrades first, and links to a DIY Home Energy Analyzer.
Install when ready
Once a customer decides to go forward with a solar installation, the permitting process begins. Roseville customers can download the residential PV packet and find links to residential and business installation and interconnection forms.
Rather than maintain an approved contractor list, the utility provides helpful resources. The website includes links to Go Solar California, sponsored by the California Energy Commission, and the Contractor State Licensing Board so that customers can ensure their contractors have a valid license.
Staying neutral and staying current are the keys to gaining customer trust, noted Energy Program Technician David Dominguez. “We focus on making sure we give our customers the most relevant and up-to-date information,” he said. “That allows them to come to their own conclusions.”
Dominguez, who handles the utility’s retrofit solar interconnections, is the Trusted Solar Advisor and he was answering customers’ solar questions before Roseville created the program. Some customers just feel more comfortable talking to a representative, or they may still have questions after visiting the website, Dominguez acknowledged. “But now, with the website, when people call, they often have a much better idea of what they need to know.”
Source: Public Power Daily, 11/29/16