energy efficiency

Finding the 'Secret Sauce' to define and motivate your target audience

Most people can agree that being efficient consumers of energy is a good thing. And yet encouraging energy efficiency can be challenging, in part because the potential audience can be huge and diverse, and in part because making a change, even if it saves you money, typically requires effort.

That’s why it’s essential to find the people who are most likely to give energy-efficiency programs a try. Intelligent use of customer data can help target and inform a receptive audience. Members of this audience will then be encouraged to take action with some motivation.

I recently moderated a panel at the Behavior Energy and Climate Conference in Washington, D.C., where three experts discussed innovative ways to strategically target energy-efficiency programs, address factors that make people hesitant to join, and then scale the program.

For example, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) wanted to encourage customers to switch to more efficient water heaters, an effort that, if successful, could save 500 megawatts, the amount of power consumed by the homes in Seattle and Boise combined.

Becca Yates, the alliance’s marketing and communications manager, said the group narrowed down its audience from more than 12 million customers of some 100 utilities by using its own customer data plus information from other sources, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The alliance identified a potential customer base of likely early adopters in certain areas, then created segments using criteria such as use of electricity for heating, home value, and income.

NEEA needed to persuade customers to buy an energy-saving product that had a rather high upfront cost. It achieved increased sales by targeting online ads to sites focused on home and garden, appliances, remodeling, energy efficiency, and green living. It also used cookies to re-target customers who did not act the first time they saw the ads, which helped generate awareness. NEAA also used direct mail campaigns, getting better results after urging customers to meet a rebate deadline.

In the Rocky Mountain region, Questar Gas wanted to encourage customers to take part in its appliance rebate and efficiency program, even though customers’ rates in the natural gas-rich region are among the lowest in the nation.

Ted Peterson, Questar’s energy efficiency program manager, said the company was already sending customers reports comparing their energy use to their neighbors’, based on a range of home sizes, building ages and other general factors. But the utility found ways to provide better comparisons, based on specific home sizes, weather zones, service contracts, and a new mathematical formula that ensured only the most similar customers would be compared.

The utility also emulated companies like Netflix and Amazon, which make product recommendations like, “Customers who bought this product also bought…”  to recommend products like a new water heater or furnace, showing the amount the customer would save.

Using data to target and inform your audience is a critical step, but members of this audience may need additional motivation. This motivation was demonstrated by utilities in North Carolina and Vermont, which wanted to get more customers to use ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulbs. LED bulbs use about 80 percent less energy than traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. But customers are sometimes reluctant to buy them because they’re more expensive and harder to find.

Working with Home Depot and Costco in North Carolina, Duke Energy set up in-store events to promote a sale that put the cost of a bulb at about $5. With plenty of stock on hand, representatives used a lighting strip to demonstrate ease of use. Customers signed cards pledging to convert one bulb in their home to an LED. The in-store promotions resulted in an almost 900 percent increase in sales, and area residents’ daily energy use dropped significantly in the month after the events. In addition, 84 percent of those who participated in the in-store event said the next light bulb they bought would be an LED.

In Vermont, students at one elementary school sold LED bulbs at a reduced cost as a fundraiser. The goal of the drive was to get customers to change all the incandescent bulbs in one room to LEDs. The results: 87 homeowners bought a total of 1,022 bulbs. In an Efficiency Vermont customer survey, 78 percent said they planned to buy an LED bulb in the future.

Wesley Schultz, a professor of psychology at California State University and advisor to the ENERGY STAR program, who did a case study on the projects, said customers in both the Duke Energy and Efficiency Vermont promotions reduced their overall energy use in the weeks after buying the LED bulbs.

Driving participation in energy-saving programs doesn't have to be a hit-or-miss strategy. These efforts show that intelligent use of data can help identify a target audience and break down barriers, so customers will be more open to a new, more efficient technology. This is how we will move toward a more sustainable future.

 

Tenants and landlords can both save with energy efficiency upgrades

Talk about a win-win. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and government-backed mortgage provider Freddie Mac recently agreed on a plan that will cut carbon emissions and at the same time make rental housing more affordable.

The plan will make it easier and cheaper for property owners to get loans for energy efficiency upgrades. This is a big deal because studies estimate that increasing the efficiency of U.S. multifamily rental properties could deliver as much as $9 billion in energy savings by 2020. It could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking 7.2 million cars off the road or shutting down 10 coal-fired power plants. 

With studies showing that rental properties are generally less efficient per square foot than owner-occupied homes, helping renters and their landlords save energy (and money) is a key step toward reducing overall U.S. energy use. 

The EPA-Freddie Mac initiative, part of the president’s Climate Action Plan, also will make available more data on energy and water use in multifamily properties. Tenants will better understand the energy costs of living in a particular home, letting them make more informed decisions. And owners will have a new incentive to make their properties more efficient, and therefore more appealing to potential renters. Additionally, property owners and tenants alike will be able to see how efficient their properties are compared to others.

EPA and Freddie Mac aren’t the only ones working to address this challenge. C2ES, through the Make an Impact program, has launched a web-based effort to reach out to renters with customized energy efficiency information. (Read about it in this blog.)  

Building Sector



On-bill financing (OBF) refers to a type of loan that can be used to invest in improving the energy efficiency of a building. The loan is paid back over time through an additional charge on the building’s utility bill. This mechanism encourages building occupants and owners to invest in energy efficiency measures, which can decrease energy consumption and utility bills.

Installing energy efficient measures often comes with a high upfront cost that many people, businesses, and institutions cannot afford. OBF programs can mitigate this problem because the administering utility or a third party covers the upfront cost of the energy efficient installations, which the participating utility ratepayer then repays through an additional charge on their utility bill. Since the ratepayer will be using less energy, and therefore paying less for energy, after the installation, there should be little or no net increase in the monthly bill.

On-bill financing programs vary by state and by provider, and each program has its own terms and process. Programs may be available to residential, commercial, industrial, and/or institutional customers depending on the state and utility policies. In those states with legislation that requires utilities to offer OBF, generally it is only obligatory for investor-owned utilities (IOUs). Administration of OBF programs also varies; programs may be administered by the utility itself, a nonprofit organization, or a government entity. Some OBF programs feature a discounted or zero interest rate. Generally, non-repayment of the loan will lead to a shutoff in utility service, which deters defaults and makes OBF more attractive for the loan provider. Initial investment funds for energy efficient installations can come from utility ratepayers, government grants, or other funding sources. To date, much of the funding for OBF has come from funds directed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Most participants in OBF begin the program with an audit of the building to determine if energy efficient upgrades would be cost-effective. Some programs require all upgrades to be “bill-neutral.” Bill-neutrality occurs when the savings accrued by the decreased energy use will be equal to or greater than the monthly repayment amount. Unless specifically noted, the programs described in the map are not required to be bill-neutral.

On-bill financing programs may also have the characteristic of being “tied to the meter,” meaning that responsibility of repayment lies with the current resident of the building, rather than forever with the resident who instigated the financing. This allows for flexibility for residents who wish to move or sell their home. Unless specifically noted, the programs described in the map are not tied to the meter.

The states are organized into the following policy categories:

1.    State-Required On-Bill Financing: These states have passed laws or public utilities commission orders that require utilities statewide (usually only large or investor-owned utilities) to provide an OBF program. Program specifications, such as loan terms, program size, and customer eligibility vary from state to state. 

2.    State-Supported On-Bill Financing: These states have passed laws or public utilities commission orders that authorize and/or support the implementation of OBF state-wide, but do not require any utilities to offer OBF programs. These include policies that remove legal barriers to offering OBF or establishing funds for OBF programs.

3.    Preliminary On-Bill Financing Policy: These states’ public utilities commissions have ordered the establishment of pilot OBF programs or commissioned research or working groups to analyze the feasibility of OBF programs.

4.    On-Bill Financing Offered by Individual Utilities: Utilities in some states have voluntarily created OBF programs without direction from local or state government. In some states, utilities can earn money from reducing overall demand.  Energy efficiency can also be a way to reduce peak loads and thus generation costs.

To learn more about On-Bill Financing programs, please see the C2ES On-Bill Financing Brief.

Additional information:
ACEEE: On-Bill Financing for Energy Efficiency Improvements
NRDC: On-Bill Financing Overview and Key Considerations for Program Design
C2ES Climate TechBook: Building Envelope

Schools’ Challenge provides lasting lessons

Teaching students how to save energy and help the environment provides lessons that can last a lifetime. That’s the biggest takeaway of our third annual Change Our 2morrow (CO2) Schools’ Challenge.

The 2013 Schools’ Challenge, an initiative of Alcoa Foundation and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ Make an Impact program, took place last month in seven schools across five states. Thousands of middle school students, their teachers, families and community members participated in interactive lessons, completed an energy-saving pledge list, and calculated their carbon footprint as part of the month-long program. Collectively, 10,433 people committed to take actions in their daily lives that will save more than 21 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equivalent to taking 2,000 cars off the road for one year.

9 tips for a greener holiday

As we plunge into the holiday shopping season, take a minute to think about the things you can do to make searching for the perfect gift a little friendlier on the planet (and your wallet).

Here are nine ideas for making the holiday season a little greener and less stressful. Try one. And get more information on how you can save energy and help the planet at http://makeanimpact.c2es.org/

House and Senate Energy Efficiency Standards Bill and Amendments

House and Senate Energy Efficiency Standards bill and amendments

On September 22, 2012, its last day before the November elections, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that combined energy efficiency measures from both the Senate (S.1000) and the House of Representatives (H.R.4850). Some version of the bill may be enacted during the "lame duck" session of Congress between the elections and the end of the year.

In the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (September 2011):

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, S.1000, introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), would promote the use of energy efficient technologies. Some of the highlights of the bill include: strengthening building codes for homes and commercial buildings by requiring them to be more energy efficient; facilitating energy efficient upgrades by manufacturers; establishing loan programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund the development and commercialization of innovative energy efficient technology and processes for industrial applications; supporting private investment in energy efficient technologies as a result of joint ventures between DOE and private sector partnerships; and requiring the Federal Government – the single largest energy user in the country – to adopt energy saving techniques and advanced metering technologies to better manage the energy usage of government buildings. The bill passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee in September 2011.

In the House (June 2012):

The Enabling Energy Savings Innovations Act, H.R.4850, sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), would allow the Secretary of Energy to waive insulation standards placed on some components of walk-in coolers and freezers as set by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975. Current federal regulations on refrigeration units are believed too restrictive to be met even with components that meet or outperform the DOE energy efficiency standards. H.R. 4850 was introduced in April, 2012, passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on June 26, 2012, and was sent to the Senate.

In the Senate (September 2012):

On September 22, the Senate passed H.R.4850 with two amendments. The first, (S.Amdt.2862), a provision of S.1000, would direct the Secretary of Energy to report to Congress on the deployment of industrial energy efficiency within one year of the enactment of the Act, and to submit guidance on how to remove barriers to deployment of energy efficient technologies. The amendment would also direct the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study of the advanced energy technology capabilities of the United States while specifically enumerated government programs would be directed to develop collaborative partnerships to support research and development of technologies that reduce emissions. Additionally, the amendment would set federal energy management and data collection standards, including a web-based tracking system to certify compliance with certain energy and water measures. It would also direct the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, and the General Services Administration to report to Congress on the best energy practices in Federal facilities. Moreover, the amendment would require a study of the perceived economic benefits of providing the industrial sector with Federal energy efficiency matching grants, and estimated energy and emission reductions. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) co-sponsored this amendment. (Sen. Pryor (D-AR) offered the amendment on behalf of Sen. Shaheen on the Senate floor.) The second amendment (S.Amdt.2861), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) (also offered by Sen. Pryor) would set a uniform efficiency descriptor, a way to quantify and measure energy efficiency, for covered water heaters/water heating technologies.

In the House (December 2012):

On December 4, 2012, during the "lame duck" session, the House passed H.R. 6582, the ''American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act'' by a 398-2 vote. Sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), the bill combines language that the House and Senate have approved earlier this year (see above) on various energy efficiency provisions, including some language from the Senate's Shaheen-Portman efficiency package (see above, S.1000). The House bill approved such measures as establishing best practices for "smart" electric meters in the federal government, as well as setting federal energy management and data collection standards. Section 3 of the bill, The Uniform Efficiency Descriptor for Covered Water Heaters section, would ease regulatory burdens by directing the Department of Energy (DOE) to transition from having separate definitions for two types of water heaters, to having a single definition for all covered water heaters. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) backed the bill but called for more legislation in the new Congress.

In the Senate (December 2012):

On the evening of December 6, 2012, the Senate passed H.R. 6582 unanimously, without any amendments. (See section direcly above for a description of H.R. 6582).

Presidential Signature (December 2012):

On December 18, President Obama signed H.R. 6582 into law.

Solar Decathletes Bring Homebuilding Talents to Washington, D.C.

Over the past few weeks, college students have been shedding light on the future of solar energy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Out of 19 teams from around the globe and 10 energy performance and livability contests, one overall winner emerged at the recently held U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon. The winning WaterShed home design, built by students from the University of Maryland, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The house included a 9.2 kilowatt rooftop solar array and prominently featured storm water management and recycling components, such as a butterfly roof and pollution filtration.

Help Make an Impact Win a CLASSY Award

“All kids growing up in this generation know how they’re impacting the environment. We’re teaching today’s kids about recycling and being responsible.”
- Shawn Kerr, eighth-grade science teacher at Alcoa Middle School in Alcoa, TN.

Fifteen schools participated in the Make an Impact: Change Our 2morrow (MAI CO2) schools’ challenge, an educational energy conservation competition led by the Center’s Make an Impact (MAI) initiative in partnership with Alcoa. Mr. Kerr’s words sum up the program’s outcome, in which Make an Impact, a corporate employee and community engagement program, expanded the reach of its energy efficiency message to middle and high schools in five Alcoa communities across four states this spring.

Alcoa Middle School principle Jim Kirk holds up the $1,000 check that the school won for being named a regional runner-up in the MAI: CO2 schools’ challenge.

We had high hopes for the MAI CO2 campaign, but our success at engaging a younger audience in acting on energy efficiency far exceeded our expectations. In one month, we reached more than 8,000 students/parents/teachers and motivated them to calculate their carbon footprint with the Make an Impact calculator. The program wasn’t just about students realizing their impact on the earth; we also tried to teach and empower these young individuals to make a difference – by saving energy, money, and the planet. Between March 14 and April 11, participants identified more than 14.4 million pounds of potential carbon savings and an estimated $1.75 million in energy savings.

RGGI’s Benefits, Costs, and Why It Should Stay

Throughout the beginning of 2011, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) —the first mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade program in the United States—was successfully defended by state legislators in three states where attempts were made to remove those states from the program. In the second week of May, the states of Delaware and Maine defeated bills proposing withdrawal, while in New Hampshire, Senators did not pass the House’s version of a withdrawal bill. But on May 26, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that his state will leave RGGI by the end of the year.

Participating RGGI states cap CO2 emissions from power plants (those with generation capacities of at least 25 megawatts) and auction most of the emissions allowances. (Each allowance lets a power plant emit one ton of CO2.) RGGI’s CO2 emission allowance auctions raised $789.2 million for the 10 participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states from 2008 to the end of 2010. Meanwhile, consumers on average saw their monthly utility bills increase by less than $1. As highlighted in a February RGGI report, this allowance auction revenue has benefited the 10 participating states via investments in clean energy technology and energy bill assistance. These investments are creating clean energy jobs, saving consumers money, and deploying technologies that reduce the environmental impact of power generation.

Bank of America Announces New Goal to Reduce Its Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 15 Percent

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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Ambitious Commitment Would Result in Cumulative 30 Percent Decrease in the Company's Emissions Since 2004, and Includes New Corporate Real Estate Portfolio Goal of 20 Percent LEED(R)-Certified Space

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 18, 2011 -- Bank of America today announced an ambitious new goal to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 percent from 2011 to 2015, based on its 2010 baseline. This goal spans all of the company's global operations in more than 40 countries and builds on its previous GHG reduction of 18 percent between 2004 and 2009, which had focused on legacy Bank of America operations in the U.S.

Through the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders program, Bank of America was one of the first global financial institutions to announce GHG emissions reduction targets in 2004, and the first to publicly report out on exceeding those goals within the commitment period.

Today, factoring in the addition of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, the new target represents an overall global reduction in aggregate GHG emissions of more than 30 percent from the 2004 baseline. This is equal to annual emissions of more than 700,000 metric tons CO2-equivalent or said another way, equal to eliminating the annual GHG emissions from more than 124,000 passenger vehicles.

"Reducing our emissions not only lessens the environmental impact of our global operations, but enhances our efficiency and delivers tremendous value for our company and shareholders," said Global Technology and Operations Executive and Bank of America Environmental Council Chair Catherine P. Bessant. "Continuing to achieve a GHG reduction of this magnitude requires fundamental changes spanning our entire organization, from our global real estate portfolio to the individual workspaces our employees occupy."

Like most companies, the vast majority (90 percent) of Bank of America's GHG emissions derives from energy consumption. To accomplish its GHG goal, Bank of America will focus on lowering its energy consumption by:

  • Expanding and enhancing energy management systems and technology.
  • Increasing computing efficiency in data centers and desktop/laptop computers.
  • Improving overall equipment efficiency in areas such as HVAC and lighting.
  • Optimizing office space.
  • Identifying and implementing emerging technologies as they become commercially available and/or viable.
  • Educating employees on how they can modify their behaviors to support the goal.

Leaders in LEED(R) certification

To further advance its GHG reduction goals, Bank of America also announced today that 20 percent of its corporate workplace real estate portfolio will be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED(R) (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system by 2015. Currently 11 percent of the company's workplace portfolio, 13.2 million square feet, is comprised of LEED-certified space. LEED-certified space will include new construction, core and shell construction, commercial interiors, retail spaces and the operations and maintenance of existing buildings.

"Bank of America is an industry and corporate leader in applying LEED to achieve improvement to their global corporate footprint," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "The company has systematically leveraged every aspect of green building practices throughout their entire workplace building stock to help them standardize their energy efficiency and achieve their carbon reduction goals."

Employee engagement

Additionally, the company recognizes the important role that employees have in contributing to the company's comprehensive GHG emissions reduction goals. By instituting robust employee programs, the company is better able to achieve this specific goal, as well as reduce its overall indirect GHG emissions.

Through a comprehensive employee educational program, and a partnership with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the company is providing training, education and resources to help employees find ways to save energy and money, while reducing waste, improving their workplace and communities, and engaging with their teammates in market-specific opportunities. Employee training sessions in 2011 will focus on overall energy conservation, sustainable transportation, LEED building enhancements and recycling.

Under the company's Hybrid Vehicle Reimbursement program, eligible U.S.-based employees can receive up to a $3,000 reimbursement toward the purchase of a new hybrid, highway-capable electric or compressed natural gas vehicle. Initially launched in 2007, more than 3,800 employees have replaced conventionally powered vehicles which, on average, doubled their fuel economy and prevented the release of nearly 4,000 tons of annual CO2 emissions from employee commuting.

Third party partners

Bank of America also engages leading, independent partners like the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Ceres, throughout the entire lifecycle of its emissions and other environmental goal setting, benchmarking and reporting. To track its progress on this and other environmental commitments, the company continues to complete CDP's comprehensive annual carbon survey, adhere to Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting standards, and submit its GHG emissions data for independent, third-party review.

"As a global company, Bank of America is to be congratulated for its past achievements and impressive new goal, as well as demonstrating how effective management of their emissions and environmental footprint makes both business and environmental sense. It is clear that the effective management of these issues has a direct impact on a company's ability to compete and grow," said Paul Simpson, chief executive officer, Carbon Disclosure Project, a global, independent, not-for-profit organization that monitors and encourages company disclosure on carbon dioxide emissions. "They have made significant progress in engaging suppliers, employees and leadership on climate change and this announcement speaks to their long-term commitment."

About Bank of America's Environmental Commitment

Understanding the important role it plays in helping clients and communities address climate change, Bank of America continues to establish itself as an environmental leader in the financial services sector. In 2007, Bank of America embarked on a 10-year, $20 billion business initiative to address climate change through lending, investments, capital markets activity, philanthropy, and its own operations. Delivering $12.1 billion in four years to hundreds of clients in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and markets across Asia, Europe and Latin America, Bank of America is focused on reducing its environmental footprint while aligning its global financial products and services to help advance energy efficiency and low-carbon energy markets, including wind, solar, biomass, other emerging technologies. For more information about Bank of America's environmental commitment, visit www.bankofamerica.com/environment.

SOURCE: Bank of America

Reporters May Contact:
Britney Sheehan, Bank of America, 1.206.358.7563
britney.w.sheehan@bankofamerica.com

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