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The UtilityXpert Series Part 2: Sustainable Energy Efficiency Program Implementation

Posted By Nishaant Sangaavi, Wednesday, March 27, 2019

In this week’s UtilityXpert roundup, we chat with Brett Bishop of Build it Green , Build It Green (BIG), an environmental nonprofit based in Oakland, California with a mission to create a world of healthy and sustainable home for all people. They are pioneering how homes are built and renovated in California and beyond.

In this article, we’ll talk about Brett’s experience helping energy providers implement sustainable, effective EE programs. Brett has a wealth of experience and his passion really comes through when discussing some of the industry’s most challenge issues, including aggressive energy targets, as well as implementation tactics.

1 You've had a variety of experience designing and implementing all different types of EE programs. Tell us about your approach at the beginning to ensure a holistic plan is built.

We are passionate about bringing innovation to the market and inspired to support consumers, professionals, private companies, and public agencies to achieve the greatest impact. We mainly focus on three goals:

  • Driving deep reductions in carbon emissions by connecting more homes to clean power and advanced energy technologies

  • Creating a real estate market that recognizes the value of these homes and ensuring that these benefits are accessible and affordable to all communities

  • Creating healthy and sustainable homes for people in low-income communities.

All these approaches combine for a holistic plan because having these specific goals in mind makes it easier to achieve and track our successes in our various programs.

2 Tell us about the different nuances of implementing different programs in different communities?

It really comes down to knowing what the community we are trying to help needs from multiple perspectives. For instance for our Cool Savers program, the first Pay-for-Performance programs of its kind, we really wanted the focus on customers that want to save more energy! That’s what it’s structured to emphasize, that’s why participants become a stakeholder in the success of the program, and that’s why we added the Cool Rewards bonus system to the program, which allows participants to earn cash bonuses for being a deep energy saver.

(Cool Savers participants who save the most energy over a 12-month period are eligible for a bonus incentive up to $1,000.)

With our Healthy Home Connect program, we structured the program to leverage multiple funding sources to deliver energy and healthy home upgrades simultaneously to benefit California’s most vulnerable or disadvantaged communities, with both energy burden and regional air pollution being factored from the outset.

The Healthy Home Connect (HHC) program has successfully expanded into new communities, thanks to generous funding from our partners like Peninsula Clean Energy and private equities such as Facebook, Inc. BIG is delivering health and energy upgrades to families faced with hardships in the Belle Haven community, and Menlo Park near Facebook’s HQ. These homes would otherwise not benefit from existing energy efficiency programs because they needed much more basic repairs first. For example, one home had their entire ceiling removed in the hallway, completely open to the attic space, all year round! She was over eighty years old and clearly needed more than just LED light bulbs and faucet aerators. Typically, program administrators are unaware of such egregious conditions because there is no budget for measures outside of demand reduction or they choose not to get close to the work.

There is a strong link between health and energy efficiency in homes: energy upgrades often provide health co-benefits and we are working to unlock both of these benefits homeowners.

Housing services are often siloed and delivered to meet program performance metrics alone. Energy efficiency and weatherization programs do not address home health conditions, which are often closely related. Furthermore, many homes are disqualified from receiving energy efficiency and solar PV improvements because of existing conditions in the home, such as mould, moisture, unsafe HVAC systems leaking carbon monoxide, or dilapidated roofs.

The result is that some of the most vulnerable families are left behind and must live in homes that exacerbate asthma and other health conditions, as well as homes that are inefficient with high utility bills, contributing to displacement and the affordable housing crisis. Healthy Home Connect addresses these problems by combining public funding sources with private philanthropy and delivering health and energy efficiency together, intentionally. Exactly like everything else in the efficiency field, it demands a conscientious front side to each project and detailed project management.

BIG also worked closely with their local, like-minded, non-profit builder/partner El-Concilio of San Mateo, to establish relationships, trust within the community, and help fulfill the work and mission of the Program.

3 How do you approach getting buy-in for your recommendations at every step of the implementation process (ex. IT teams, DSM teams)?

The billion dollar question! Ultimately, it is about having the right team lined up around a future state. Which begins with the client, their objectives, and design constraints. Once these conditions have been identified and communicated market analysis drives the conversation. Build It Green is always conscientious to bring our workforce into this part of the design process; ultimately, if the market does not buy into your value proposition you are going to have a difficult time getting your program off the ground.

Once the interventions are established as to technologies and engagement platforms, the marketing team can begin designing a narrative that is relatable. As with any organization, having the right team on your side is key. Having a team that is aligned with the vision of the company’s core objectives results in an effort that communicates consistency across different departments and specializations. To steal a phrase from the sports world, it’s about “building your bench” which has to begin long before a project is even dreamed of.

4 California has lofty energy efficiency savings targets for 2030. How will it get there?

We have visions for 2030 that are aggressive, it's true, 2045 is even more so with a target for net carbon neutrality across our entire economy. It’s going to be a large effort with a lot of stakeholders and factors that are dynamic. One example that illustrates this well is California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, our grid is more and more decarbonized with every passing year, so energy storage and shifting consumption to times of the day when the sun is producing our power are a big part of shifting the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy Efficiency is crucial to the effectiveness of these efforts because if consumption of energy is unchecked, then the cost to produce the energy tracks the demand curve. Think of it on a smaller scale, a house that is efficient may need twenty solar panels; the same home without efficiency measures may need thirty panels to achieve an energy bill of zero. Less is definitely more. One phrase I really enjoy it, “the cheapest electron is the one you don’t use.”

I think the biggest challenge is going to be psychological. People are attached to their habits and don’t necessarily perceive them as such. One example of this is induction cooking. The technology has far superior performance compared to gas. I love cooking a lot and eating good food even more! It took me a while to get to a place where I could install an induction rage because my home is older and was set up for gas, but once I got it done I found was that I had a much greater level of control over temperature and everything heats up dramatically faster. It’s super nice, easy to clean, it performs better, and doesn’t put exhaust into my kitchen. Going back would feel like making dinner in the garage with the door closed and the car running! But until consciousness around these shifts, people will be espoused to antiquated technology.

All that circles back to decarbonization because utilizing renewables effectively is dependent on multiple systems like space and water heating, cooking, laundry, etc. Efficiency allows us to do the same things as we were doing before, hopefully, better, while consuming fewer resources. That’s the value proposition we need to convey, “your quality of life will improve if you get with the program,” otherwise there’s no reason to do anything different than you did yesterday. The horse and carriage were replaced with the car, the landline replaced with cellular, we have superior and sustainable technologies today, so the question is not if, but how, and by when. That’s where California is rightly focusing today.

“We’d love to hit targets early, but even if we’re a little late, we’re still in much better shape than if we didn’t strive for it in the first place.”
— BRETT BISHOP, BUILD IT GREEN

Tags:  Cost reduction  customer engagement  Customer EngagementResidential Programs  Energy Efficiency  Energy Efficiency Experts of Tomorrow 

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Performance Metrics Gone Wild!

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, November 8, 2018

 

I recently had a conversation with a utility executive who informed me of an unbelievable occurrence.  He had discovered that customers calling the contact center questioning a high bill were being recommended to have an in-house energy audit rather than receiving an answer to their question; the appropriate answer was the summer temperature had increased from the previous month and there were more days in the billing cycle.  The reason for this occurrence was that the contact center representatives were being measured on the typical and well-known metrics such as first call resolution, average handle time and number of calls answered.  The easiest path to meeting these metrics was to pass the customer along to another department.  When speaking with another utility executive I heard the same story and then another executive conveyed the same message.

Referring a customer to a field audit does have some positive benefits such as increased customer engagement, and if the auditor does discover a defect in the home, it will improve customer satisfaction.  However, the down-side to the contact center representatives’ actions most likely outweigh the potential benefits.  First, from a customer’s point of view, the question was not answered; the inquiry was merely deferred.  Second are the financial ramifications; the cost of a call is typically between $7.50 and $12.50- the cost of a field audit is typically between $250 and $300.  Using the 6x to 8x expense to revenue multiple from my previous article, the cost of the frivolous field audit erased the entire annual revenue generated by the customer. Third, from an operational efficiency standpoint, it is much more efficient to recommend that a customer use an on-line self-service tool rather than calling the contact center or requesting a field audit; digitally engaged customer are 20% more satisfied than non-digitally engaged consumers.

The Apogee suite of solutions are designed to specifically answer these customer inquiries either directly by the customer via a utility website or by a CSR.

 

About The Author

Jim Malcom, Chief Financial Officer and EVP of APOGEE Interactive, Inc.

 

Jim Malcom is Chief Operating Officer of Apogee Interactive, Inc., providing oversight business and financial operations of the company. His senior management experience in the telecommunications and management consulting industries is providing strategic direction for Apogee’s continued growth and success.

Malcom brings more than 20 years in corporate finance and accounting to Apogee, which began with the firms KPMG and Ernst & Young in Atlanta. His career steadily expanded to include senior posts as chief financial officer, corporate controller, vice president and treasurer for such area companies as Heidelberg USA, LecStar Telecom and Powertel.

He is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration, a certified public accountant, and a chartered global management accountant.

 

 

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Cost reduction  Customer Engagement 

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