Energy Efficiency For All: Market Development at Ameren Illinois | Webinar brought to you by Leidos
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- Aug 19, 2019 7:45 pm GMT
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Recently, Energy Central had the pleasure of hosting a webinar on how to deliver energy efficiency benefits to all customers – including low-income customers – and investigating the market development work that Ameren Illinois, Leidos, and key subcontractors are implementing across Illinois. This informative webinar brought together the following key speakers who shared their insights with the Energy Central audience:
- Angie Ostaszewski, Project Manager for Energy Efficiency Strategy & Innovation for Ameren Illinois
- John Carroll, Market Development Project Coordinator for Leidos
- Carla Walker-Miller, President and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services
If you were unable to attend this valuable discussion when it aired live, you can still watch the presentation on demand by following this link. The important conversation about delivering energy efficiency programs that reach every type of customer – including underserved communities – is part of an increasing trend towards recognizing the importance of equity in utility programs and helping more customers realize the economic benefits of energy efficiency. Customers in lower income communities have the most to gain from energy efficiency projects, but many times do not have the resources to move forward with the upgrades.
For those Energy Central community members who have not had a chance to experience this webinar, here are some of the key takeaways and areas of discussion:
Importance of Delivering Energy Efficiency to Customers Who Need It Most
The Market Development Initiative was launched by Ameren Illinois in Spring 2018, in line with CEO Richard Mark’s vision of ‘Energy Efficiency for All.’ According to Angie Ostaszewski, Ameren Illinois, the key stated tenets of this program were to:
- Engage customers who have not previously benefitted from energy efficiency
- Increase the number of energy efficiency jobs for local and diverse candidates
- Support new and growing energy efficiency businesses
By focusing on community partnerships and workforce development programs, Ameren Illinois succeeded in incorporating community-based partners and leaders as key drivers of the program, identifying barriers to implementation ahead of time, and creating a workforce pipeline in these diverse and untapped communities. As a result of this community-based approach, the Ameren Illinois program is able to deliver energy-efficient benefits to historically unserved or underserved customer populations. In addition to lower energy bills, these customers are also more aware of how their actions impact energy costs and steps they can take to further reduce consumption each day.
As Angie noted, when looking at the goals of a new approach to energy efficiency, it’s important to gather consistent feedback and input from a variety of stakeholders:
“We always have the parameters that we need to operate within as a regulated program, but it’s important to really listen and not place your partners in a box using a traditional approach. A lot of the opportunity here for innovation resides in learning the best practices of groups who have not traditionally operated in our programs.”
Incorporating Market Development Efforts into Existing Energy Efficiency Portfolios via Holistic & Cross-Promotional Approaches
While integrating market development efforts into an energy efficiency portfolio can be a challenge, John Carroll, Leidos, shared how this aspect can be more easily achieved when you integrate your efforts more directly into the day-to-day portfolio operations. And while integrating new processes and partners can take time, it is important to focus on developing consistent messaging, communicating frequently with partners, and creating measurable performance goals to ensure success with market development.
As one example of a successful implementation, John discussed how the Ameren Illinois team approached the Garden Hills neighborhood in Champaign, Illinois. The city had an existing initiative combining safety with energy efficiency and lighting, using city and state funds to provide health and safety measures. Leidos partnered with the local regional planning commission who performs outreach for the initiative and trained their staff on the Ameren Illinois program. By educating planning commission staff on the program, Ameren Illinois was able to extend their outreach presence and educate homeowners on the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades. This approach leveraged an existing outreach channel – helping to avoid duplicative touchpoints with the same customer and potential confusion in the marketplace.
John noted the benefits of this combined approach:
“This project is a model for leveraging initiatives that are already in place and trying to take advantage of all available funding sources. Always keep your eyes and your ears open for opportunities to integrate energy efficiency program operations.”
Value of Diversity in Energy Efficiency Workforces
Lastly, the webinar highlighted the benefits achieved when a utility portfolio invests in developing a more diverse and inclusive energy efficiency workforce. As Carla Walker-Miller, Walker-Miller Energy Services, noted, energy efficiency is local economic development. By creating these local jobs and building the energy efficiency workforce of the future, utilities can enhance the quality of life in its communities and increase program participation with historically hard-to-reach customers.
As Carla states, diversity and inclusion can move energy efficiency portfolios beyond the focus on just energy savings goals and into other metrics that have long-lasting impacts in our communities.
“We believe that diversity is key to energy efficiency for all. It enhances program results, and it allows us to really look at not just the letter of the laws but the spirit of the laws. These conversations about diversity have to become part of our new normal.”
Regarding the benefits to companies that embrace a diverse energy efficiency workforce, Carla noted that companies with a diverse employee makeup see higher performance and success rates than their less diverse counterparts. Gender diverse companies in the top quartile for diversity are 15% more likely to outperform those companies in the bottom quartile. Similarly, ethnically diverse companies in the top quartile are 35% more likely to outperform less diverse companies. In addition to ensuring diverse workforce participation, it is equally important for utilities and supporting implementers to procure solutions and services from diverse and local businesses, which helps to enhance the economic impacts in our communities.
While this summary captures many key points of the webinar, it does not detail the wealth of insights that these three industry experts were able to share through the lessons learned at Ameren Illinois. If these are relevant topics for your utility program, it is worthwhile to invest an hour of your time to watch the full webinar.