Featured Member of the Month: Opower
“Optimizing Communications to Low-Income Utility Customers”
Starting this month, we’re modifying our approach to the Featured Member of the Month. In this space we’ll be sharing profiles of VAEEC members and their most innovative and relevant programs in an effort to foster more information sharing and knowledge building among our network. Thanks to Opower for being our “guinea pig” with this new approach and for sharing their story.
Finding ways to save energy and shrink utility bills can make a huge difference for low-income families across the U.S. struggling to make ends meet.
VAEEC member Opower – a company that helps utilities around the world reduce energy consumption and improve relationships with their customers – engages more than 500,000 low-income customers across the U.S. through targeted, personalized communications, empowering low-income families with the information they need to lower their bills.
There are often assumptions that low-income customers would have trouble reducing their energy usage because they have fewer appliances to turn off. Yet Opower has found that EE savings are on par with average customer savings. Further, low-income customers are even more likely than non-low-income customers to take equipment-based actions – things like insulating doors, installing efficient appliances/lighting, insulating attic, etc. — in response to Opower’s Home Energy Reports (HERs). These actions might be undertaken on their own or through weatherization programs that utilities and others offer. And low-income customers report higher rates of satisfaction with the HERs than average customers.
“Opower is committed to giving utilities tools to bring more value to their customers and their communities. There’s a great deal we can do to help low-income families by empowering them with insights that are tailored to their needs and provide practical ways they can reduce energy costs,” says Alex Laskey, Opower President and Co-Founder.
The lessons Opower has learned (and shared through various resources like the white papers which you can access below) in their outreach to low-income customers has huge implications.
“The U.S. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program reaches fewer than 25% of eligible households, yet the needs of low-income families are growing. As funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and LIHEAP decrease or fades away completely, it is critical to help families maximize the value of every available dollar. Energy efficiency offers a promising opportunities to help low-income families manage their energy costs,” says Jim Kapsis, Opower’s Vice President of Global Policy & Regulatory Affairs.
You can download two of Opower’s white papers on this topic on their website:
Unlocking Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Utility Customers: Four Key Lessons from Real-World Program Experience
Beyond Weatherization: How Innovative Program Strategies Can Enhance Core Low-Income Programs