Energy Efficiency Programs

Utility customers want to reduce their carbon footprints. Here’s how five utilities helped them.

In September 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that ENERGY STAR and other climate change programs prevented 70 million metric tons of carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2006, up from 63 million in 2005. In addition, Americans saved more than $14 billion on their energy bills. With terms like “climate change” and “carbon footprint” taking root in the vernacular, Americans are increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and are seeking—and are clearly selecting— choices that promise less harm to the environment.

Providing customers with the ability to select environmentally friendly products and services requires dedication and a strategic approach; the resulting reward of a smaller carbon footprint is invaluable. Recently, several ENERY STAR programs garnered accolades from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and policy development to advance energy efficiency. Programs implemented by Arizona Public Service, Puget Sound Energy, PacifiCorp Rocky Mountain Power, and Sierra Pacific/Nevada Power were deemed noteworthy for helping customers achieve greater energy efficiency in their homes and businesses.

The programs instituted by these utilities have succeeded due to one primary factor: relationships. Each organization outsourced the management of energy efficiency programs to an experienced consulting firm, gaining vital relationships and a higher level of expertise in the process.

Education is king

The key to successful energy efficiency programs lies with the team associated with the project and its ability to foster mutually beneficial relationships. A successful energy savings program requires calling upon organizations with specific core competencies to help execute critical components of a campaign, including trusted trade allies, retail partners, manufacturers, and measurement and verification partners. The process requires patience and a willingness to put in as much time as necessary to produce a fruitful partnership. A thoughtful and open approach is critical.

Education is also imperative. For example, ENERGY STAR lighting programs with Puget Sound Energy and Arizona Public Service relied on key retail partners to promote and educate consumers about energy saving choices. At PSE, the Residential Efficiency Program was launched in 2002 on the heels of the West Coast energy crisis the previous year. The utility hoped to build on the momentum for adopting efficient lighting and to garner the cost-effective energy savings that lighting programs offer.

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To educate the public about the benefits of ENERGY STAR products and encourage PSE residential customers to purchase high-efficiency ENERGY STAR qualified lighting, various retailers were called upon to participate in promotional efforts. DIY stores, hardware stores, drug stores, grocery stores and lighting showrooms partnered with the utility to offer discount coupons to customers at the time of purchase. Discounts ranged from $2 for a single “twist” compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) to $20 for hard-wired fixtures.

Similarly, APS required retail partners to carry and promote discounted lighting, achieved through the utilization of an upstream lighting manufacturer buy-down approach. APS was able to bring the cost of energy-efficient lighting products down to a more attractive price and retail relationships were critical in placing the affordable options at local stores.

Educating the public about their choices is a key component of any energy savings program. Both PSE and APS benefited from outreach events, targeted media and marketing campaigns, in-store advertising, retail visits and training. Such educational efforts reinforce the energy saving messages, changing consumer behavior for the long term.

Thinking outside the bulb

While lighting is clearly a strong starting point for an energy saving program, utilities can encourage customers to do more by evaluating the efficiency of other products around their homes and businesses. At Nevada Power/Sierra Pacific, the ENERGY STAR Residential Lighting and Appliance Program folds various components into its energy efficiency strategy. The initiative partnered with retailers to carry and promote discounted ENERGY STAR qualified lighting. A rebate element encouraged customers to purchase energy efficient appliances, such as refrigerators and clothes washers.

PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) took a different approach, focusing not on what consumers bring into their homes, but on what types of homes they move into. Rocky Mountain Power’s ENERGY STAR New Homes Program promotes construction of energy-efficient homes based on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). The measures modeled by HERS qualified software include building envelope upgrades, high performance windows, controlled air infiltration, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, tight duct systems and more efficient water heating equipment.

RMP forged relationships with builder and trade allies, providing training and education to create a presence in the market. While recruiting participants from the home construction industry was crucial to the program’s success, so was a consumer education campaign executed to generate demand for these environmentally-sound homes. The program has worked: At the start of the ENERGY STAR New Homes Program in 2005, Utah had a handful of ENERGY STAR builders; in 2007, more than 100 builders were actively constructing ENERGY STAR homes and 3,063 homes were ENERGY STAR certified.

Meaningful, measurable results

In order to justify the expenses of energy savings programs, it is critical to show measurable results. For the programs highlighted here, aggregated savings are estimated at more than two million megawatt hours. While those in the industry have some grasp of the enormity of this number, the average consumer may not.

It is important to provide consumers with a clear idea of what one kilowatt hour can represent. In this case, imagine taking 472,286 cars off the road for one year. Keep in mind that this represents only four ENERGY STAR programs, and that consumers are also benefiting from lower monthly bills.

It has become abundantly clear in recent years that the climate change crisis is not a problem that can be fixed easily by one entity or another; rather, a concerted and committed effort is required among an array of organizations and individuals that each have the power to tread a little more softly on the planet.


Alan Bouris is vice president of energy efficiency solutions at Ecos Consulting, where he oversees all aspects of program delivery to utilities, retailers and manufacturers. Ecos Consulting implements energy efficiency programs and shepherds specifications and program designs through the regulatory process. Bouris can be reached at

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