Celebrate energy efficiency, public power in October

Public Power Week
Oct. 2-8

Energy Efficiency Day
Oct. 5

It is fitting that as the days get noticeably colder and darker, we recognize the people who make sure we can light and warm our homes (and cook hearty meals and take hot baths) all year around. Public Power Week You are leaving WAPA.gov. is Oct. 2-8, and this year, Oct. 5, Energy Efficiency Day You are leaving WAPA.gov., is dedicated to the role wise energy use plays in keeping electricity reliable and affordable.

Public Power Week, Oct. 2-8, 2016 an American Tradition
(Artwork by American Public Power Association)

American Public Power Association (APPA) sponsors Public Power Week and provides plenty of resources to help utilities get their celebration off the ground. You can suggest your local municipality issue a proclamation, send messages on your social media platforms and provide local media with news releases and public service announcements. Post facts from APPA’s public power and energy-efficiency fact sheets on your website and make sure your member services representatives have copies handy to share.

Let your customers know Oct. 5 is Energy Efficiency Day.
Let your customers know Oct. 5 is Energy Efficiency Day. (Artwork by ResourceMedia)

Speaking of energy efficiency, do your customers know that this “power source” has prevented the need to build 313 large plants since 1990? According to American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ACEEE), further ramping up energy efficiency could spare the country from having to build 487 large power plants over the next 14 years. The inaugural Energy Efficiency Day offers utilities the chance to educate consumers on the importance of saving energy.

Energy efficiency saves consumers and businesses money, creates jobs and stimulates the economy. It is also one of the lowest-cost ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The best part is that most utilities already have experience with energy-efficiency programs ranging from simple rebates for efficient appliances to sophisticated demand-response programs. Reminding your customers of the benefits of energy efficiency measures can help to encourage them to participate in existing programs and make them more receptive to future offerings.

The inaugural Energy Efficiency Day is a collaborative effort of regional and national organizations working to promote energy efficiency, including the ACEEE, Appliance Standards Awareness Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. and many others. APPA, colleges and universities, trade allies and investor- and publicly owned utilities are among the organizations supporting #EEDay2016.

If you would like to add National Energy Efficiency Day to your Public Power Week celebration, you can find a link to a toolkit You are leaving WAPA.gov. on the SWEEP blog, Livewire. Feel free to supplement the material with your own success stories, and don’t forget to share your plans with the Energy Services Bulletin, because every day is Energy Efficiency Day for WAPA Energy Services.

Source: American Public Power Association, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, 9/9/16

In-home events jump-start outreach, says DOE Better Buildings program

Keeping customer outreach programs fresh is a challenge for even the most customer-oriented utility. The Marketing and Outreach Handbook from the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Program recommends using in-home events to show customers the real-world benefits of energy-efficiency upgrades.InHomeProvenPractices

Unlike remodeling projects, the benefits of a home energy upgrade are generally not immediately visible to the casual observer. Strategies that demonstrate tangible benefits from upgrades can help customers understand the value of such projects and motivate them to invest in improvements.

Utility-sponsored house parties and demonstration homes help make energy efficiency real by showing potential customers what a home energy assessment or upgrade entails. In some cases, the hosts of these events were interested or satisfied customers—trusted marketing sources—who invited friends and neighbors to their homes. Utility program staff and contractors were typically on hand to walk the guests through an assessment of the house or to point out the efficiency measures in upgraded homes, and to answer any questions.

The handbook offers case studies of successful home tour programs across the United States. A few proven practices that make upgrade benefits visible include:

  • Show how assessments work
    Energy Impact Illinois used “house parties” to build momentum for energy assessments and upgrades. Trusted neighbors hosted contractors who showed guests where energy was being wasted and explained ways to improve comfort while saving energy.
  • Hold house tours
    New Orleans, Louisiana Worthwhile Investments Save Energy gave open house tours in the upgraded homes of happy clients. Signs highlighting completed work were posted throughout the house, and the upgrade contractor was present to talk about the associated energy savings. These showcase events produced high-quality leads who were likely to undertake projects.
  • Invite the whole neighborhood
    ShopSmart with JEA, You are leaving Western's site. a Florida utility rebate program, threw a Home Energy Makeover: Block Party to raise community awareness about its rebate opportunities. Homeowners who had received home energy assessments from a local energy professional hosted block parties for their neighbors. The energy professional reviewed the assessment and upgrade process, discussed rebate options and answered questions from friends and neighbors who attended.
  • Make efficiency personal
    The California Center for Sustainable Energy You are leaving Western's site. provided demonstration tours in homes that completed upgrades in Chula Vista, California. Potential customers could learn about their neighbors’ experiences, ask questions of the home performance professionals who installed the upgrades and sign up for an energy assessment of their own home for less than $50.

Start here for success
You will find more residential energy-efficiency outreach tips, step-by-step instructions and program examples in Marketing & Outreach – Develop Implementation Plans to jump-start your outreach program. If you haven’t used the Better Building Residential Program Solution Center, take a tour through its resources for key lessons and best practices drawn from the experience of utilities, energy organizations and their partners.

Source: DOE Better Buildings Program, 8/25/15

Download the updated Cooling Tip Sheet, bill stuffer

Cooling season is once again upon us, and yours may already be shifting into high gear, so there is no time like the present to remind your consumers about the importance of maintaining their air conditioners.dog-fan

The 2015 Tip Sheet: Cooling System Maintenance, and its “Mini-me” bill stuffer are ready to be downloaded, imprinted with your logo and given to your customers before they call to complain about high summer cooling bills. Both handouts break down the simple steps that keep air conditioners humming efficiently, and offer operating tips to make sure a cooling system is not fighting an uphill battle.

The full-size sheet includes websites for those who might want to do a little more research on efficient cooling. That makes it a good handout for customer education events. The bill stuffer provides the same information, minus the online resources, in the perfect size to fit into a business envelope. Customers can post it on their refrigerators, near their cooling systems or in home workshops. You might also print up a batch of stuffers for cooling contractors and dealers to hand out to their customers.

We designed The Tip Sheet so you can set it up with your own logo, or send Energy Services an electronic version of your logo and we’ll create a template for you. Then you can print the quantity you need in-house, or take it to your local quick printer for more paper choices. Either way, The Tip Sheet and bill stuffer give you an easy, cost-effective way to talk to your customers about cooling efficiency, and to help you with summer load control.

Storms attract new social media followers, engagement keeps them coming back

stormoptThere is nothing like an extreme weather event to build up your social media program. According to a recent story in Intelligent UtilityYou are leaving WAPA.gov. customers turn to their utility’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed during emergencies to get updates about power outages and restoration times. Once the lights are back on, however, you run the risk of losing your new followers if you do not figure out how to keep them engaged.

The article offers four steps for engaging social media users when the lights are on and the sky is blue—you know, most of the year. The best part is that these suggestions apply to any customer outreach program, high-tech or otherwise.

Choose your themes
Start by identifying message themes that are relevant to your customers’ daily lives—safety, energy efficiency and preparedness, for example. Then find experts inside your utility to provide information on those topics. Your communication with customers starts by keeping the lines open in your own organization. You should also reach out to partners in the community who do work related to your themes, such as police and fire departments, non-profits and the media. Cross promotion with their social media outlets will add variety to your message and strengthen your communications network in times of emergency.

Once you have a good flow of content, you need to organize it so that your followers get useful information in real time, in a way that makes sense to them. The article recommends building a content calendar that organizes messages by theme, date, time and platform. You can schedule “evergreen” items like seasonal efficiency tips and storm readiness in a regular rotation and reuse them with a little updating. A calendar will also give you the flexibility to respond to current events, such as accidents, with items that address your customers’ concerns.

Always look for the simplest way to communicate your message, especially in social media. Using pictures, videos, graphics and diagrams can help you break down your message to easy-to-understand pieces. And don’t think that “platform” refers only to electronic communications. Ask yourself if that newsletter story could be summed up in a few bullet points on a bill stuffer or in a well-written public service announcement on your local radio station.

Listen, listen some more
Because utility customers need electricity and can only get it from their utility—so far—it can be easy to forget that communication is a two-way street. Social media offers businesses a way to find out what their followers are saying and to engage them in dialogue. A customer may be more comfortable complaining on Facebook or tweeting his dissatisfaction than calling in a complaint. You can use that opening to start a conversation that ultimately resolves the issue and turns the follower into a loyal supporter.

The ability to engage with customers on a more personal level is a good argument for launching a social media program, but the old-fashioned way works, too. Place representatives at community events where they can meet customers face to face, and promote your annual customer meeting. Work with partner agencies to create fun, informative demonstrations to present at utility and partner events. Never pass up an opportunity to talk with your ratepayers and to look at your utility through their eyes.

Analyze, refine, repeat
A communicator’s work is never done, and every outreach plan is a work in progress. This is where social media makes its value known. You will be able to track trends, see which posts are getting attention and which are being ignored, and adjust your messaging accordingly.

In the pre-social media days, measuring the results of public outreach was notoriously difficult, but the old indicators can still tell you a thing or two. Train your representatives to pay attention to the questions customers ask at events or when they call your service desk, and to ask follow-up questions. What sounds like routine complaining about high utility bills may be a cry for more efficiency programs. Watch program participation figures—Do you get an uptick in interest in a particular program after promoting it? Without promoting it? Are customers dropping out of programs? Are they asking for something you are not offering?

Social media provides utilities with excellent new tools for improving customer communications, but the philosophy underlying the strategies is old-school. Figure out what the customer wants, deliver it to them in a timely and useful manner, follow up and use the feedback to improve the service. That is the proven formula for turning foul-weather followers into loyal and satisfied customers.

Source: Intelligent Utility, 3/25/15