The COVID 19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges to individuals and businesses in 2020 and continuing into 2021. It became increasingly difficult to deliver traditional utility energy efficiency programs at a time when customers needed them most. During the pandemic, Energy Services Group (ESG) worked with utilities to find ways to pivot and continue providing meaningful programs and customer experiences. The following article, featured in National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s RE Magazine, is a good example of how ESG can work with you to provide programs for your customers during these challenging times.
Pandemic Pivot Boosts Efficiency Outreach
Plans falling apart led to new perks and broader member engagement for a small co-op in Eugene, Oregon.
Pam Spettel, the Communications and Legislative Affairs Representative at Blachly-Lane Electric Cooperative, was in the middle of a year-long energy efficiency partnership with ESG. Energy efficiency advisors representing the co-op were going door to door to install efficiency measures. Then the state of Oregon shut down in response to COVID-19. Spettel needed a new plan.
ESG’s Director of Operations and Customer Engagement Miranda Boutelle organized two sets of efficiency kits for the co-op’s members. At the same time, Spettel launched a marketing campaign reflecting the co-op’s pandemic response: “We’re Here for You. Always.” The first of two kits were branded with the campaign, then hand-delivered by ESG’s team to members.
“This was the perfect option,” says Spettel. “It was great outreach at a time when we couldn’t do high-touch outreach. Not only did our members get free products, but they also got energy savings.”
ESG delivered Care Kits with four LED lightbulbs and two KN95 masks to all 2,865 member homes. Members had the choice to opt-in for a second, larger kit, including:
- Eight LED bulbs
- Two LED reflectors
- Two LED globes
- One power strip
- One thermostatic shut-off valve
- Two shower aerators
Spettel expected up to 250 people to ask for a second kit based on past member response to efficiency offers. Instead, almost 900 members asked for more efficiency help — a full third of Blachly-Lane Electric Co-op’s membership.
“It was wildly successful,” says Spettel, who moved money from the co-op’s efficiency rebates program to the kit budget. “Rebates tend to be used mostly by people who have some means, since there are out-of-pocket expenses. This kit was a great way to equitably distribute our efficiency program money.”
By the end of 2020, the co-op estimates the kit generated 638,704 kilowatt-hours of energy savings. Spettel thinks the pandemic-inspired shift in tactics made her 2020 efficiency program more successful than it would have been otherwise.
“When we changed our plan, we thought this was the next best thing,” says Spettel. “The engagement turned out to be even better than we originally expected. We had so much positive feedback, I stopped counting. Members added thank you notes on their bills, emails, and a lot of phone calls. Everybody got a taste of our efficiency program’s benefits, and people really appreciated us.”