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Question

This Sunday is 'National Cut Your Energy Costs Day.' How is your utility aiding customers to identify energy cost saving opportunities?

Posted to Energy Central

It may not be as widely recognized as President's Day or even Arbor Day, but January 10 is officially recognized as 'National Cut Your Energy Costs Day' to encourage consumers to find ways to find low-hanging fruit for energy savings, to upgrade equipment that may be using more energy than is necessary, to perform regular maintenance (such as cleaning HVAC filters or refrigeration coils) that reduces energy consumption, or to weatherize their home. 

But for consumers who aren't as aware of the possibilities for energy savings, of programs/rebates/incentives that exist to assist them, or even about how much energy savings (and cost savings) are actually possible, their utility providers are primed to be the most trusted advisor on these opportunities. So in recognition of National Cut Your Energy Costs Day, I thought it appropriate to ask: What is your utility doing to assist customers in discovering, implementing, and following through on energy cost-cutting measures? 

 

Answers

I live in Tallahassee, Florida, and I am a fan of the City of Tallahassee electric utility.  I think the people there work on innovative ways for conservation, energy efficiency and moving to renewables.  For example, recently the City of Tallahassee partnered with the Florida State University Center for Advanced Power Systems on power grid research.  The aim is to develop cutting-edge technologies including electronic controls and artificial intelligence to allow power plants to better use solar panels with a battery energy storage system.  The technology could lower energy costs by 10%.

Meanwhile, the City has an energy efficiency loan program.  It offers a 5 percent financing for more than 25 energy efficiency measures.  Also, the City offers free home energy audits for any electric customers who would like to have their homes evaluated for energy and water efficiency.

 

Jennifer Szaro's picture
Jennifer Szaro on Jan 7, 2021

One of my favorite city utilities!!  

Thanks to incentives my local utility, I'll be saving money soon with new open cell foam insulation from Icynene from Tailored Foam in my attic.  It seals the space completely making it easier for your AC to cool your home while also dampening sound.  We expect to save at least 30% on our heating and cooling bills annually and Duke Energy provides a great rebate along with a free home energy audit to help make it happen.  I'm also on their demand response program which saves me nearly $150 per year.  To learn more about it click here: Duke Energy's EnergyWise Home Program

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 7, 2021

That's awesome! I'm curious about what outreach Duke conducted to get the message out-- was this something you sought out in an effort to save energy, or did they identify you as a customer who could likely benefit from it? 

Jennifer Szaro's picture
Jennifer Szaro on Jan 11, 2021

Great question, Matt.  Duke Energy sent out direct mailers about their new smart meter data availability online, which included a side bar promotion about their conservation programs. I liked that they linked their DSM and DR programs to a promotion about being able to better access your own consumption data.  It was a great cross-cutting promotional effort.

Katherine Johnson's picture
Katherine Johnson on Jan 13, 2021

The City of Tallahassee and a number of other municipal utilities have developed innovative financing programs to encourage the installation of high-efficiency equipment. We need more utilities to step up and provide on-bill financing that helps customers afford these installations. That will truly make energy efficiency accessible for everyone. 

 

That is cool.  Everything I hear about consumers now is that they really like having that info, that they are more engaged.

I'm the Energy Services/Marketing Manager at Santee Electric Co-op in South Carolina. We offer a wide array of  energy management services and information. I perform nearly 22 no cost, in-home energy assessments per month. We provide rebates and incentives for demand management. (i.e. water heater timer switches and smart thermostats.) Our most successful energy savings program is our HELP MY HOUSE program. It's an on-bill financing program where we provide a front end audit, scope of work, bid proposal, complete insulation/weatherization upgrade, hvac replacement, and post audit inspection for verification of work completed. Santee Electric has completed nearly 310 homes to date to the tune of 3.2 million dollars. Our members are saving roughly 30% post retrofit. We like to empower our membership. Therefore, we provide apps and software so our members can monitor and manage their usage as the please. 

Kevin,

I am curious about how you market these services to your customers?  

Kevin  Myers's picture
Kevin Myers on Jan 12, 2021

We apply bill credits for word of mouth marketing. We have brochures in our offices. We use radio advertising. We use Constant Contact's e-blast product for email campaigns. 

Here in Colorado - one thing that Xcel Energy does is sends out a report (via mail) on a regular basis letting you know how your energy consumption is compared to your neighbors.  This can be very eye-opening.  

Kevin  Myers's picture
Kevin Myers on Jan 12, 2021

That wouldn't work for us. A large percentage of our residential load is mobile homes. It would be hard to explain to one member in a 900 sqft mobile home why their bill is $400 more than the 2000 sqft stick built home with closed cell foam. In SEC's territory, comparing one home to the next is like comparing apples to oranges. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 12, 2021

I thought that a typical home energy report would take care to get as close to apples to apples as possible, not just square footage but also home type, equipment, family size, etc. (where such data are available). Is that too arduous to factor in to be worth it in certain cases? 

Katherine Johnson's picture
Katherine Johnson on Jan 13, 2021

The HER reports are based on "like customers," but these haven't been well-received in certain regions. In some Southern states, comparing oneself to his neighbors is considered rude. The HER reports are good for engaging an already interested customer but less effective for customers who didn't "opt-in" to the program.

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 13, 2021

Thanks for the info-- always a fascinating topic when the 'human' or 'cultural' side of things comes into play in a way that the engineer-types developing them maybe didn't foresee. So much still to study and learn across this space!