Energy Services Group (ESG) partners with utilities to find creative programs to provide additional ways for income-eligible customers to save energy, lower their monthly electric bills, and increase the comfort in their homes. One in five households faces the difficult decision of paying for necessities like food and medicine or paying energy bills. Lower-income customers spend a higher percentage of their income on energy bills. The average household spends 3.5% of their income on energy, while low-income households spend 7.2% of their income on energy. Additionally, lower-income homes are typically less efficient and have less efficient appliances and equipment.*

Clatskanie PUD, Oregon, Customer Relations and Services Manager Sarah Johnson, Pioneer’s 2018 Communicator of the Year, wrote about her recent experience with ESG in the Northwest Public Power Association’s (NWPPA) Bulletin Magazine. Visit the NWPPA website. We asked her to share her experience here, too. Connect with Sarah on Sarah’s LinkedIn.

Sarah Johnson’s Experience with ESG

Sarah Johnson headshotBy Sarah Johnson – Clatskanie PUD

Efficiency efforts deliver more than lower bills. Conservation programs provide comfort. It is exciting for a small utility of 4,700 meters to be able to provide free ductless heat pumps and heat pump water heaters to consumers in need. Visit our Conservation page.

At Clatskanie PUD, we are fortunate to have ample power sales with large industrial load to create a substantial conservation credit with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for energy efficiency measures. Visit the BPA website. Recently those funds were targeted towards the residential sector, especially for income-qualified customers.

Our desire to provide excellent customer service and go above and beyond for hard-to-reach customer sectors turned into a successful partnership and full-service program.

Clatskanie PUD partnered with ESG to provide a comprehensive direct install and major measures energy efficiency program. The program includes:

  • Door-to-door direct install measures
  • Direct mailing energy efficiency kits
  • Installations of ductless heat pumps and heat pump water heaters

“The program has been a huge success for us,” says Clatskanie PUD Conservation and Key Accounts Lead Brian Fawcett. “We have been able to use our energy efficiency funding through BPA in a consumer-centric fashion. Not only has it increased consumer comfort through better lighting and HVAC control, but it also saves them money on their power bills each and every month. Without this program, the funds used would not be returned to our communities.” View Brian Fawcett’s LinkedIn page.

LED-ing the Way

The program was designed to provide LEDs to all Clatskanie PUD consumer homes along with other energy-saving measures such as showerheads and power strips. During the in-home visits for the direct install of these items, the ESG team completed a snapshot audit to identify homes that might qualify for the major measures. Consumers filled out an online form to verify income qualification for the installation of a free ductless heat pump and heat pump water heater.

To help get the word out about this exciting program, the tag line “Energy savings will be knocking on your door” was used in the advertising campaign. Consumers were encouraged to sign up to participate, and ESG representatives went door to door, too.

An amazing number of LEDs have been installed so far, with 36,218 in the direct install program and 19,965 through the LED kits. Improved lighting brought Clatskanie PUD consumers both energy savings and a superior, safer light source. Many consumers expressed gratitude for the lighting. Comments from thank you notes include:

  • “Wow, it is a new world!”
  • “I can see everything now!”
  • “We can’t thank you enough for this bright and happy lighting.”

Pumps Drive Value

This direct install program created remarkable value for income-qualified consumers who received ductless heat pumps and heat pump water heaters. To date, 99 ductless heat pumps and 38 heat pump water heaters have been installed. Consumer reactions are positive to the energy savings potential and the comfort the pumps add to homes.

Many homes had old, inefficient baseboard or other types of zonal heating and no air conditioning for warmer summer months. The ductless heat pump delivers consistent heating and cooling. Consumer feedback includes:

  • “We really do appreciate all the upgrades. It is something we have wanted, but never could afford with all the necessities required for six children.”
  • “This makes our home as safe, efficient, and comfortable as possible. We appreciate this very much.”
  • “The contractors were helpful, courteous, and professional.”

There is a definite learning curve for some consumers with ductless heat pumps, but once they learn the settings and become familiar with the control they are thrilled to have such consistent and reliable heat and cooling. During colder months, the savings over using old, inefficient zonal heating units is such a relief to the income-qualified families that struggled to pay winter bills. They appreciate the comfort their home provides now with the energy efficiency upgrades.

The Power of Partnerships

Collaborating with ESG to put this program in motion has been a rewarding venture.

Along with 50,000 plus LEDs installed, there have been installed:

  • 677 aerators
  • 807 power strips
  • 1,067 shower heads
  • 837 TSV combo kits

Add in the ductless heat pumps and heat pump water heaters savings, and the efficiency partnership generated an estimated 2,186,841 kWh in energy savings.

“I’m excited about these numbers. This is pretty impressive stuff,” says Miranda Boutelle, Director of Operations and Customer Engagement at ESG. “I’m humbled to be a part of it. I know the rest of the team has enjoyed serving Clatskanie customers as well.” View Miranda Boutelle’s LinkedIn page.

Even though COVID-19 halted the door-to-door direct install portion of the program, adjustments were made to pivot to providing kits and outreach through phone calls.

“Clatskanie PUD’s program is the most comprehensive direct install program I’ve coordinated in my 10 years of managing utility efficiency program support,” says ESG Direct Install Manager Dave Barnhart. “While serving low-income consumers, Clatskanie PUD’s program also collects essential data that allows them to design programs for the next decade or more. Continued outreach for the major measures will allow the program to leverage the conservation credit funds to provide participating consumers free efficiency products while serving hard-to-reach low-income consumers.” View Dave Barnhart’s LinkedIn page.

As the important data collected through this direct install program is reviewed, it also helps to shape future programs. The hope is other energy-saving measures will be developed to add more comfort for consumers. Providing excellent consumer service through energy efficiency is rewarding and will continue well into the future at Clatskanie PUD.

Need an Efficiency Boost?

Learn how ESG powers local conservation efforts at the Efficiency Services Group website.

*Alliance to Save Energy and US Energy Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey