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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.”

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

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The UtilityXpert Roundup by EnergyX - March 18th

Posted By Nishaant Sangaavi, Monday, March 18, 2019

In this week’s UtilityXpert Roundup, Entergy’s VP declares that grid changes are needed, and only IoT and advanced data analytics can help us along. Elsewhere, EE programs are improving all across the nation, green power is in demand, and Dominion keeps one of their major projects going. As usual, it’s been a busy week in the utility world.

Entergy VP: We Have to Fundamentally ‘Reshape the Grid’ (Greentech Media)

Delivering electricity to 2.9 million customers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, Entergy is implementing advanced data analytics and internet-of-things technology across all its divisions. This article features a sit down with Entergy VP, Raiford Smith.

New and Improved Energy Efficiency Programs (NRDC)

Utility programs are a valuable and growing resource to the affordable housing community. According to ACEEE’s 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, utilities across the U.S. dedicated $7.9 billion to energy efficiency programs in 2017 alone. Likewise, utility investments designated for affordable multifamily programs have grown significantly over the past five years, and the gap between affordable multifamily’s share of the residential market and their share of utility residential investment is beginning to close in many states. 

“There are many great programs that owners can take advantage of today and utilities across the country continue to expand and improve their affordable multifamily programs. We hope that this expanding portfolio of programs will serve as models to other utilities to better serve the affordable multifamily sector and that robust participation in current programs will drive increased investment in the sector. ”

Hungry for green power, tech giants choose between utilities, independent developers (Utility Dive)

As tech companies and other large energy consumers are increasingly focusing on shifting toward a cleaner power supply, they face a choice to work with utilities or directly with developers.

“We are uniquely positioned to leverage economies of scale and the public power model, which offers flexibility, reliability and competitive pricing.”

Dominion strikes deadline day utility deal to keep Millstone nuke operating (Utility Dive)

Dominion's deal with Eversource and United Illuminating puts an end to speculation over Connecticut's sole nuclear plant, which the company had said would close if it did not secure a contract by today, March 15.

The 10 year deal will cover 9 million MWh of output annually, more than half of the plant's annual output of about 16.5 million MWh. Connecticut regulators selected the rest of Millstone's output as part of a clean energy solicitation last year.

Product Announcement: Efficient Water Heater and Space Cooler Could Lead to Net Zero Energy Restaurants (Energy Manager Today)

A new high efficiency, ultra-low emissions commercial water heating and space cooling unit, which begins field demonstrations at two Southern California restaurants this week, could dish out energy savings, lower operating costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for foodservice and hospitality facility operators.

That’s according to Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc. (SMTI), maker of the new technology, which uses a thermally driven heat pump fuelled by natural gas or propane to capture ambient energy, achieving a heating efficiency of 140% or greater. It is projected to reduce energy use by 30 to 50% compared to standard natural gas water heaters. The highly-efficient heat pump also provides space cooling simultaneously, which reduces the need for air conditioning and can help lessen electricity use.

Tags:  customer engagement  Customer Engagement Energy Efficiency  DSM  Energy Efficiency  energy efficiency programs 

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Today's Electricity Consumers Demand Personalization from Historically Impersonal Industry

Posted By Aaron Savatti, Monday, February 4, 2019

The Rise of Data and Digital Customer Services

For the past decade, electric utilities have been busy upgrading their operations with advanced meter infrastructure. Although customer acceptance of “smart’” technology has been mixed, there is now overwhelming evidence that technology is transforming how customers expect to be engaged. It should come as no surprise that technology is also redefining how utilities can engage with their customers. Moving beyond online bill pay, real-time consumption charting and a digital presence across social media platforms, utilities must now also consider an expanding array of digital customer services, often driven by artificial intelligence, to better communicate with their customers on an individual level and generally improve operations.

This new-wave of digital communication and personalization is not a moment too soon. Today’s customers expect that digital tools and processes will provide them with personalized access to information and services through their laptop, tablet, mobile device and even conventionally printed formats. These modern customer expectations are being provided for across virtually all industries today, and customers now expect the same level of interconnectivity and congruence from their utility services. Utilities must augment traditional customer communication methods with innovative technology solutions that help to personalize the customer experience while simultaneously improving the cost-effective delivery of kilowatts and other initiatives.

Over the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with utilities and their customers through a variety of mediums including online building assessments, site visits, building energy reports, and in-bound customer service queries. Based on the data collected through these interactions, there are a number of trends and findings that every electric utility should consider when planning their upcoming customer service delivery strategies, program and marketing campaigns, and even operational expenditures.

This article focuses on findings and trends in two main areas:

  1. How utilities should communicate with customers, and
  2. How utilities can personalize their communications

How Utilities Should Communicate

With so much emphasis placed on moving customer interactions to the digital realm, you may wonder if the sun is finally setting on conventional paper-based communications?

With most of the utilities I engage with, the percentage of customers that have an email address on file with the utility is less than 30 percent, which is undeniably low. This finding is echoed by a 2017 Accenture Report finding that “only 27 percent of energy consumers are active digital users. A third of energy consumers are still struggling with their experiences on their energy provider’s digital channels.” Meanwhile, a 2018 GSMA report on the mobile economy explains that smartphone penetration in North America is currently at 84 percent of the population indicating that the lack of digital customer engagement is likely not due to a lack of digital access, demographics, or even personal preferences.

With smartphone penetration in North America expected to continue growing through 2025 and digital engagement on the rise across all industries, it is hard to imagine that the majority of customers will continue to want to receive paper from their utility. Indeed, that day may already have come and gone. Another recent utility-focused study by Market Strategies International found more than 50 percent of customers would already prefer to engage with their utility digitally, but “only 33 percent of consumers recall any digital communication from their utility.” The Accenture Report found that 88 percent of customers were ready to engage digitally with their utility. The Accenture Report also outlined the myriad of benefits of a digital customer engagement strategy, including more than 50 percent reductions in customer service costs, lowering of operating expenses, and even improved productivity and innovation across the utility workforce.

Figure 1. Smartphone Penetration in North America

Note: Smartphone Penetration in North America continues to rise, supporting an increased appetite for digital content
Source: GSMA Intelligence 2018 


Figure 2. Customer Communication Preferences for Different Utility Initiatives

Note: Digital vs Direct Mail preferences can vary significantly, depending on content and customer motivations
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 43k

In light of these trends and benefits, it is no wonder that other industries are pushing forward with digital transformations. Coleman Parkes, a UK based research firm, ranked industries’ efforts towards digital transformation on a scorecard and found utilities came in last out of 10 industry sectors examined. The leading industries according to the same scorecard were Telecom and Banking/Financial Services.

So, if customers are struggling to engage with their utility through digital channels, and utilities are struggling to find ways to boost digital engagement is there any hope of making progress? A recent program I was involved with indicates the answer can be a resounding “YES.” During a home energy assessment initiative in 2018, more than 100,000 households received home energy assessments and personalized home energy reports with the option to receive their report digitally via email or on paper via direct mail. During this engagement, we saw a complete reversal of digital engagement trends with more than 90 percent of program participants opting to receive their report digitally via email.

Reading between the lines, this speaks volumes to the perceived interest or value placed on typical utility communications and the customer’s motivation to engage with typical communications. There is an argument to be made that although the majority of utility customers continue to receive paper communications, they still aren’t as actively engaged as the customers that do engage digitally. For example, looking at site traffic referrals across digital platforms in Figure 3, the majority of traffic comes from digital leads such as social media, web-ads and referral landing pages. Similarly, the largest upticks in our site traffic occur after digital marketing campaigns and integrations with online utility “customer account pages" and partner websites.

Digital marketing and leads are key to helping customers engage with digital content, they also tend to be more cost-effective and trackable than direct marketing activities. (Note: direct traffic is comprised of in-person engagements, direct mailings, conventional marketing, radio ads, etc.)

So, the future, and the present, for that matter, are digital. But what should utilities be talking about with customers across their developing digital channels? Research indicates that personalization is key to effective communication with customers. And luckily, digital mediums offer unprecedented personalization at lower unit costs than paper or other conventional mediums.

Figure 3. Breakdown of Website Engagement Origin

Note: Digital marketing and leads are key to helping customers engage with digital content, they also tend to be more cost-effective and trackable than direct marketing activities. (Note: direct traffic is comprised of in-person engagements, direct mailings, conventional marketing, radio ads, etc.) 
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 57k

How Utilities Can Personalize Communications

The starting point for electric utilities that seek to better understand and communicate with their customers is often consumption history. Information about the customer’s building can be just as informative, if not more so. Building data, such as building age, size and basic information about key equipment and appliances, can provide immediate insights into energy consumption patterns when analyzed through physics-based models or through machine learning algorithms.

Utilities have a strong use-case to collect building information directly from customers, and they are often able to learn a lot about a population in a relatively short amount of time. For example, building data collected over two months through an online building assessment was cross-referenced with actions taken to enroll in energy efficiency programs. When the data was sorted by region, a clear trend emerged: low participating regions had building stocks with a narrower age distribution across a more recent period, while high participating regions had a wider distribution of building ages with a significant number of older buildings.

Building data indicated a trend that older buildings were more likely to participate in energy efficiency programs.

Figure 4. Building Age Distributions for Regions with Low and High Program Participation

Note: Customer engagement can be significantly influenced by building stock and geography. Participation tends to be higher in areas where the building stock is older and more diverse
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 100k

When the trend was applied in reverse, regions with older buildings were targeted with marketing campaigns to increase the likelihood of program enrollment, while simultaneously targeting older buildings with a higher average potential to reduce consumption. Relatively straight-forward initiatives like the example just provided indicate that data collected from customers can be used not only to personalize communications back to those same customers, but they can also uncover trends that facilitate more effective and personal communications with customers outside of the surveyed population.

From this example, we can also see that personalization isn’t limited to putting a customer’s name and address on every message. Simply including facts, or even suggestions, targeted to specific building types, customer personas or geographical areas dramatically increases resonance in a historically “one-size-fits-all” industry.

Building data can also be combined with consumption data to provide new insights into customer motivation. In this example, data from an online building assessment platform was analyzed to estimate the difference between the building’s current performance and a modern standard (i.e., annual energy-saving potential). Savings potential was then compared to average historical monthly energy bills provided by a utility partner.

Although the general population saw an increase in their maximum savings potential correlated with higher average monthly energy bills, the population that engaged with the program did not. The engaged population was characterized by an above-average savings potential, regardless of their current average bill amount, and the average annual savings of the engaged population was relatively flat. This indicates that targeting customers simply based on high consumption or high bills is not effective. Engaged customers are often looking for high return-on-investment or above average performance increases, which are not necessarily correlated with high energy bills.

Figure 5. Customer Communication Preferences for Different Utility Initiatives
Note: Engaged customers do not necessarily have higher energy bills, but they do have a higher savings potential on average. In this case, savings potential is determined by building characteristics and equipment that consume more energy than modern, efficient equivalents
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 43k

In addition, building data provides some of the best insights into what topics, services, and energy products customers are most interested in. Customers tend to be most interested in products and services that are related to building features and equipment they currently have. The more unique the building feature or piece of equipment, the more likely a customer is to engage or convert on products and services related to that equipment. In another program, where digital home energy reports were sent to residential consumers, clicks on information regarding certain recommended building upgrades were tracked to reveal that the most infrequently recommended services often had some of the highest conversion rates. This indicates that utilities are likely to get the highest relative customer engagement on relatively “niche” topics; and conversely, attempting to engage customers on common or overly broad topics does not guarantee broad engagement or high conversion rates.

Conversion rates tend to increase for products and services that are recommended to fewer people. Products like attic insulation were recommended for more than 12 percent of a population, but only achieved conversion rates of less than 2 percent. Conversely, more specific improvement recommendations like tankless water heaters were recommended for less than 3 percent of a population, but achieved conversion rates of up to 5 percent.

Figure 6. Congruance of Recommendation and Conversion Rates for Energy Efficient Building Retrofits

Note: Conversion rates tend to increase for products and services that are recommended to fewer people. Products like attic insulation were recommended for more than 12 percent of a population, but only achieved conversion rates of less than 2 percent. Conversely, more specific improvement recommendations like tankless water heaters were recommended for less than 3 percent of a population, but achieved conversion rates of up to 5 percent. 
Source: Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc., sample size = 75k 

Final Takeaways

Digital communication strategies offer a host of information about customers that savvy organizations use to improve their service offerings, including the percentage of customers engaging via mobile devices, open and read rates for utility communications and conversion rates for utility services and programs. Building information provides deeper insights into building performance and predicted consumption patterns and can be a strong indicator of customer sentiment, engagement and action.

In conversation with utility executives and directors, it is apparent that gaining access to customer information is becoming a top business concern – and it is easy to see why. Customer service strategies, marketing decisions, program planning and even CapEx and OpEx planning are all influenced by our understanding of the customer base. As utility executives realize the growing importance of customer information as a planning resource, safeguarding and leveraging the customer resource is of increasing importance.

Modern digital communication strategies provide a number of mechanisms (e.g., email reporting, web analytics, digital ad stats, etc.) for utilities to collect customer feedback and create conversations with customers. Furthermore, the available options for digital communication channels continue expanding through the popularization of chatbots, artificial intelligence, tracking pixels and advanced customer profiling. As the cutting-edge advances, the utility’s objectives in building out new digital strategies and communication channels to improve personalization in a historically impersonal industry have never been more achievable. And, if all that wasn’t enough, customers simply want a more personal, accessible experience with their utility.

In a time of unprecedented change, where we see consumer choice growing exponentially as new technologies come to market with increasing speed, utility executives have already started asking whether they can afford NOT to make the transition to a more accessible and personal relationship with their customers. With this outlook, the quest to better understand and communicate with the customer becomes an important part of every utility’s near- and long-term planning.

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Tags:  AESP One To Watch  Customer Engagement  digital engagement  Energy Efficiency  EnergyX 

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Xcel Energy Garners AESP Award for Personalized Video Messaging Program

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Enhancing the Customer Experience and Improving Brand Perception

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA - January 23, 2019 - Today during the Association of Energy Service Professionals’ (AESP) 29th National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, attended by more than 700 utility professionals, Xcel Energy was recognized for outstanding achievement in customer engagement. AESP is dedicated to bringing veteran and young energy industry professionals together to highlight the most forward-thinking energy companies and to help advance their careers. The AESP Energy Award is granted to select utilities annually to recognize the spirit of innovation. Xcel Energy’s outbound communications program, developed by Apogee Interactive, combines customer engagement, customer satisfaction, education, and program promotions.

Xcel Energy’s Personalized Video Messaging (PVM) program has achieved strong results in customer engagement using proactive, personalized videos to educate customers about how to lower their electric bills, prepare for heating and cooling seasons, delivers annual energy summaries as well as and an email message with information about online energy audits and other programs.

The pilot program, which has now gone to scale, showed that 89 percent of Xcel Energy customers found the videos were very or somewhat useful, with 93 percent giving encouraging feedback. Of the recipients responding, 58 percent reported an improved perception of the Xcel Energy brand.

Engagement, as measured by open and click-thru rates were equally impressive.  Open rates topped 50 percent with click-thru rates of 16 percent an increase of what the company typically experiences. Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the pilot was the 15 percent reduction in calls to the contact center from the treatment group receiving the personalized videos vs. the control.

Apogee’s CEO, Susan Gilbert stated, “Today’s highly competitive marketplace has proven that regardless of industry, companies that deliver personal and relevant messaging find increased customer engagement.” She added, “Our clients are seeing astounding and lasting results with our outbound communications platform, Apogee is proud to serve Xcel Energy and support their innovative approach to customer engagement.”

About Apogee Interactive: Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive and personalized communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit or on LinkedIn.

About Xcel Energy:

Xcel Energy (NASDAQ: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Tags:  Apogee Interactive  award  customer engagement  digital engagement  marketing 

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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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New Navigant report: Bring Your Own Device DSM Programs for Utilities and Retail Energy Suppliers

Posted By Brett Feldman, Thursday, November 8, 2018

Bring Your Own Device DSM Programs for Utilities and Retail Energy Suppliers: Smart Thermostats, Hot Water Heaters, and Appliances, Energy Storage, and EVs and EV Supply Equipment: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

The global electric power industry is shifting away from centralized power generation toward a mix of distributed energy resources (DER) and smart energy management solutions. Known as the Energy Cloud, this shift positions the bring your own device (BYOD) market to allow customers to take advantage of a diverse range of smart, grid-interactive technologies. Such solutions enable customers to manage their energy consumption while maintaining optimal comfort.

BYOD refers to utility and non-utility programs that allow customers to purchase their own pre-approved, grid-responsive devices from a vendor. Customers can integrate the technology into demand response (DR) or energy efficiency programs managed through the utility, an energy supplier, or a third-party systems integrator. Three fundamental shifts are taking place as BYOD programs continue to grow across North America and enter markets worldwide. First, devices beyond thermostats are increasingly communicating with the electric power grid. BYOD broadens the range of consumer technologies eligible to participate in programs. Second, the broader BYOD programs are exploring the energy efficiency applications of bring your own thermostat (BYOT) programs. Third, BYOD programs are expanding to include retail choice electricity suppliers in deregulated markets and energy service providers.

This Navigant Research report examines the global BYOD market, with a focus on smart thermostats, hot water heaters and appliances, energy storage, EVs, and EV supply equipment. The report explores the market issues related to BYOD devices, including drivers, barriers, and trends, to highlight regional activities and programs. Global market forecasts, segmented by device type and region, extend through 2027. The report also analyzes utility and non-utility BYOD business models and shares case studies of BYOD programs incorporating various technologies in North America.

Tags:  customer engagement  DERs  Distributed Energy Resources  DSM  Energy Efficiency 

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Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Strengthens Member Relationships With Apogee’s Bill Alerts

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, October 23, 2018

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA  Today in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative’s Manager of Marketing and Member Services, Autumn McMahon, and Apogee Interactive’s Account Manager, Stephanie Knight, presented OEC’s case study at Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperative’s Public Relations / Member Relations fall conference. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can use big data to better inform and engage members.

Since the onset of mandatory TOU rates in 2013 and impending rate increases, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative realized it was crucial to help members better understand their bills. Ms. McMahon was instrumental in launching OEC’s member education campaign, knowing members needed relevant and proactive communications.

McMahon shared her strategy for building strong member relationships, reducing the need to make bill inquiry calls, and educating OEC members on ways to save energy. The pilot program she launched this year included mid-cycle bill alerts letting customers know in advance what their bills were forecasted to be while there is still time to influence them.  It also included links to a home energy audit that lets members profile their home and receive tips on saving money.  Beginning in January of 2018 with a soft launch sending 1,400 mid-cycle email alerts, the program has grown to more than 153,000 bill alerts containing links to the online audit the energy audit calculator and other energy education resources.

Results were remarkable!  Recipients reported these statistics:

  • 92% want to continue to receive the email alerts.
  • 94% rated alerts very or somewhat useful.
  • Email open rates were well above expected, averaging 42%.

“These messages are thoughtfully helpful during peak periods of usage & can help us prepare (plan to save ahead) for high peak periods if necessary! THANK YOU for considering our situations & ideas. It will help ALL of us!” OEC Member

“I love getting this information. Please don't stop.” OEC Member

During the program, the online energy audit was used to make 11,470 calculations increasing the number of home profiles. OEC is using the data collected in the home profile combined with AMI data to further personalize and target members for programs and rebate offers.

According to McMahon, “The best part of this program is my team doesn’t do the leg work.  We have a 30-minute call once a month with the Apogee team.” Putting the member in control of their energy use and taking away the surprise of a higher than normal bill is building stronger relationships with members and starting meaningful conversations.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive and personalized communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit or LinkedIn:

About OEC:

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative is the state’s largest member-owned electric cooperative and provides electricity to over 44,000 members and 55,000 accounts in seven central Oklahoma counties. The service area includes approximately 2,200 square miles and 5,500 miles of line.

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  communicating rates  customer engagement  TOU 

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Apogee Builds Solutions to Move Utilities from EE and DR to Electrification

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jim Albert CTO Interview from Apogee Interactive on Vimeo.

 Helping Utilities Turn Challenges into Opportunities

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta GA, September 13, 2018. The team at Apogee Interactive has identified several significant challenges facing utilities today. Apogee’s utility visionaries have combined their insight to the energy industry with client feedback to create new capabilities offered in their latest feature pack release set for September 25th.

Lead by Chief Software Architect, Joel Gilbert and Chief Technology Officer, Jim Albert, Apogee’s development team has focused on ways of effectively communicating the complicated topic of solar, net metering, new rate structures, and the impact of electric vehicles. Apogee is helping utilities move from energy efficiency and demand response towards customer engagement, operational efficiencies, and beneficial electrification.

For many years, outside of their whole-house cost and savings analyzer, Apogee has offered specialized tools for helping customers understand the cost impacts of solar, EVs, and various alternative electric rates.  But customers usually pay one bill and don’t think of these as separate issues.  This release wraps them all together and lets customers model whatever scenarios they are considering.

Gilbert explained, “Our solar module predicts the actual solar generation and add that back into the net metered results when analyzing the customers energy use.” Adding, “Whether they are looking at roof-top or community solar programs, customers can use our new release to get a realistic and un-biased estimate of solar production and cost impacts for their homes.”

Apogee has provided analysis for electric vehicles for many years, but this release is designed to help utilities promote electric vehicle adoption by showing realistic side-by-side savings predictions. The module will be included in the overall home energy analysis.

The big Feature Pack reveal is being presented in a series of webinars scheduled for September 25th and 27thWatch this short video with Jim Albert, to learn more.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Consolidated Edison, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit  or on LinkedIn.

 Media Contact: Karen Morris, 678-684-6801 or




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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  customer engagement  Electri  Energy Efficiency Experts of Tomorrow  solar 

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Apogee Announces Enhancements to Engagement Platform

Posted By Karen Morris, Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Apogee Addresses Utility Clients’ Needs in New Feature Pack

Atlanta, GA September 5, 2018, Apogee Interactive’s Chief Technology Officer, Jim Albert, announced today that his team is releasing new, cutting-edge features that enhance and expand Apogee’s current software offerings. This feature pack release will be available to existing and new clients on September 25, 2018.  New features help utilities address today’s most challenging topics, including communicating solar options, net metering, electric vehicles, new rate structures, and adding more personalized videos to the outbound messaging platform.

Mr. Albert explained, “Apogee knows the energy industry.  We listen intently to our clients’ needs.” He added, “Issues around community solar, electric vehicles, and communicating new rates have been top of mind this year, and the success of Personal Video Messaging has led to an explosive expansion of our video library.”

Apogee will share details of the of the 2018 feature pack in a series of webinars on September 25th and 27th.  

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s comprehensive digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit  or on LinkedIn.


 Media Contact: Karen Morris, 678-684-6801 or

Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement  Customer Engagement Energy Efficiency  Electric Vehicles  Residential Programs  Solar 

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Apogee Shares Wonders of Personalized Video Messaging

Posted By Karen Morris, Monday, June 18, 2018

Municipals Embrace New Digital Engagement Methods


For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA – Jun. 19, 2018, Today at the American Public Power Association (APPA) National Conference in New Orleans attended by more than 1200 municipal utility professionals, Apogee Interactive, Inc. shared the results of four years’ experience sending millions of personalized video messages to utility customers.  Apogee is the newest addition to the Hometown Connections Partnership, and was invited to share what they do for hundreds of US utilities.  The firm was honored at a Hometown Connections Partnership appreciation breakfast on Tuesday morning.

According to Susan Gilbert, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, “Use of this type of messaging is exploding as utilities are finding customers love receiving them. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  One general manager of a North Carolina utility shared with us a voice mail recording from a customer raving about receiving one, saying, ‘We’re used to getting customer high bill complaints, but this is a first getting a high bill compliment!’”  The caller was referring to the video bill explanation she had received and wanted to express her gratitude for having it explained that the higher bill was due to it being 10 degrees colder and there being additional days in the billing period. 

According to Apogee’s experience and studies, other proven benefits of personalized video messaging include:

  • 15x higher email click through rates than industry standards
  • Proven reduced calls to the contact center
  • 58% improved perception of their utility
  • Double digit improvement in customer satisfaction
  • Increased program participation
  • Improved program targeting

Gilbert added, “Customers often don’t know they are served by their city and don’t know the advantages that offers them.”  That observation led to Apogee producing a Welcome Series of personalized videos.  “Upon establishing new service, customers receive a personalized video letting them know the benefits of being served by the city and that additional videos will be coming to help them understand their bills and available programs,” she continued.  Subsequent videos are triggered when billing or usage data signals there maybe a problem or an opportunity to participate in a program matching their usage profile.

The cost-effectiveness of this new communication method is a major factor in its success.  Apogee developed a technique for delivering personalized messages at costs a fraction of alternative messaging methods.


About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit  or on LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Karen Morris, or 678-684-6801

Tags:  #PublicPower  Apogee Interactive  customer engagement  Energy Efficiency  Residential Programs 

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