Making Utilities More Efficient

We probably don’t need another white paper to tell us that utilities are more likely to get their customers to use energy-efficient options if they mail them out directly. But the more the merrier.

“Contrary to popular belief, utilities don’t want consumers to use large amounts of energy, because that leads to a need for expensive additional infrastructures to support the use,” explained CEO Todd Recknagel of AM Conservation Group, reportedly the largest provider of conservation kits to the industry, in a press release for his company’s new study. “Utility companies will do whatever it takes, including distribution of efficiency kits and educational tools to help lower energy and water use.”

Doing whatever it takes is exactly what it’s going to take, if utilities are to survive the changing demographics of the energy industry, according to The Shelton Group. “Consumers in the U.S. are not satisfied with their electrical utilities,” vice-president of research Lee Ann Head told SolarEnergy last month. “Alternative energy and the connected home are going to change things quite rapidly. So utilities really need to be focusing on adopting new technology, improving customer engagement, communication channels and interaction options – or they could lose customers.”

In terms of communications, AM Conservation Group and Illume Advising’s overview of energy savings kit programs found that direct outreach and mail of weatherization evolutions – from LEDs and CFLs to water-conscious shower heads, faucet aerators and more – could operate as gateways to increased customer participation and energy efficiency. SolarEnergy‘s Matthew Wheeland found Alameda Municipal Power’s free LEDs-by-mail program to be an exciting but still-rare innovation. On the digital communication front, analytics software company Simple Energy teamed up with San Diego Gas & Electric and other utilities to create an online efficiency and rebate marketplace that disseminates information and savings at the point of sale.

But the point of energy generation is becoming as important to the next generation of consumers, who want utilities to clean up their own acts. “Minnesota still loses roughly two-thirds of its energy potential from generation to the point it’s used in your home,” Citizens League executive director Sean Kershaw explained in a PostBulletin analysis of outdated utility business and energy models. “The vast majority of electricity is lost as heat before it gets to your light bulb.”

Of course, we live in a multitasking world which can manage energy-efficiency at multiple points of generation and consumption. We just have to do it. A lot of people choose utility companies after carrying out a comparison of all their local providers. For instance, someone in Texas will most likely be comparing the electric companies in dallas before they choose the best one for them. However, this leads to them changing providers quite often. Studies and sense show that if utilities offer their increasingly savvy and demanding customers cleaner energy and efficiency alternatives, they’re likely to forge lasting loyalties. We can all write the white paper together.

This article appeared at Solar Energy