Whenever I try to explain to people what I do for a living, it is usually met with looks of confusion and disbelief. As VP of PowerStream’s Conservation Division, my job is to encourage and help our customers use less of the product (electricity) that we distribute. Why would we do this? The reason is simple – it makes economic sense. The cost of reducing energy consumption through conservation programs is less than the cost of generating more power.
PowerStream has been tasked with a target of 535 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy savings from 2015-2020 – equivalent to reducing the total amount of energy used by our customers by 6%. We currently offer more than a dozen different energy conservation programs, covering all of our customer categories (residential, small business, commercial and industrial). But we know we can do more and we are always looking for new ways to help our customers.
Power Reports is our newest program for residential customers. In this program, more than 175,000 PowerStream and 8,000 Collus PowerStream customers are receiving 4-6 customized reports per year in the mail, providing them with information about their energy consumption, how it compares to similar households and tips for how to reduce energy use. This program is delivered in partnership with a company called Opower.
When I first heard about this type of program more than six years ago, I was skeptical to say the least.
I couldn’t believe mailing a simple piece of paper to customers showing them how their energy consumption compared to their neighbours could actually result in real, measurable energy savings. I was sure that it was all fluff without any science or substance to back it up.
It turns out I was wrong. After more than three years of investigation and due diligence, I now understand the science behind the Power Reports program (for my fellow nerds out there…it is a “Randomized Control Trial in which the treatment is messaging using normative comparisons”) and I have great confidence in the validity of the results and the wisdom of the investment. Since the program was first offered to customers in 2007:
Perhaps one of the things I like best about the program is that customers did not have to go through a difficult process to apply and become a participant. We understand that customers are busy and do not always have time to actively monitor their energy use, to research available programs or to use online tools. This is why we have provided Power Reports. They deliver customized energy information and tips into the hands of our customers to help them save money and reduce their energy consumption.
We understand that the report may not resonate with all of our customers, and they are welcome to opt-out of the program at any time. To date we’ve had less than 0.1% of participants opt out, and our energy savings are tracking above expected levels, so I am optimistic that our customers are finding the reports to be of value.