How Con Edison is fueling the power of green

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By George Roach, Systems Specialist, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York

You might say that Consolidated Edison Company of New York started “going green” before green was “green.”

Con Edison began its green initiative in 1995. Like many businesses, Con Edison’s initial focus on going paperless started with electronic payments, and the world’s largest and most complex energy delivery company has been very successful – fully 50 percent of Con Edison’s current customers pay their bills electronically (via phone, online and auto-debit).

Adoption of electronic bill presentment, however, has been a tougher challenge – for Con Edison as well as businesses across all industries – until recently. Con Edison is now enrolling around 7,000 customers per month, or about 84,000 a year, in electronic bill presentment.

What changed?

Con Edison has been working on eliminating common barriers to widespread adoption of electronic bill presentment, such as overly complicated online enrollment, website glitches and lack of awareness of the environmental, cost-savings and security benefits of migrating to electronic methods of receiving and paying bills.

Con Edison has been a charter member of the nonprofit PayItGreen coalition since it was formed in 2007 by NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association to educate consumers and businesses about the positive environmental impacts of choosing electronic bills, statements, and payments over paper. (NACHA is a nonprofit representing nearly 11,000 financial institutions to encourage efficient use of the ACH Network for safe, secure, electronic payments.)

Leveraging tools developed as part of its PayItGreen membership, Con Edison launched an integrated “Power of Green” campaign employing a full array of tools and techniques:

* A Power of Green section on Con Edison’s website

* Social media efforts via Power of Green on Facebook and Twitter

* Online, print, radio, transit and stadium ads

* Direct mail postcards, bill inserts, customer newsletters and email outreach

* A lottery awarding two iPads to customers enrolled during the timeframe

* Social responsibility programs, such as contributing $1 to the Million Trees NYC initiative for each person who enrolls in electronic bill presentment

Fueling the Power of Green with the Power of You

Con Edison is always looking for new and innovative ways to drive awareness of the environmental benefits of an all-electronic billing cycle. In 2009, the utility added PayItGreen’s Power of You interactive video email campaign to its arsenal.

To encourage widespread use of the campaign by billers and drive a significant increase in consumer adoption rates, PayItGreen and NACHA’s Council for Electronic Billing and Payment (CEBP) designed the Power of You campaign to be a low-cost ($5,000) turnkey marketing program that any biller can easily adapt to help increase eBill adoption among their customers.

The campaign includes:
 
An industry award-winning two-minute video.

Email template with 13-second embedded video and suggested language – utilities can infuse it with their own style and direct where customers who click through will land.

Access to Accudata predictive modeling – Accudata scores customer data to target customer segments most likely to be receptive to messages about electronic bill presentment. Con Edison first ran the Power of You campaign in December 2009, using Accudata’s scored customer data, with a resulting 10 percent enrollment of email recipients. In a second campaign sent to a larger, unscored group of customers in July 2010, Con Edison saw only an 8 percent enrollment.

In beta tests, Accudata’s enrollee predictability model accurately predicted over 75 percent of actual enrollees. Accudata also found that the probability for adoption is higher if the consumer buys through the mail, uses credit cards, has a higher income, or is a single male with no children; and decreases among older generations and those who have lived longer at the same residence.

Negotiated pricing for video streaming

Con Edison feels strongly that multiple messages get the best results, so the utility supported the Power of You campaign with other customer-facing tools, including its Power of Green Web pages and on-call messages.

Though Con Edison’s annual churn rate of 15 percent means that 100 percent saturation isn’t a realistic goal, the utility continues to develop new and innovative ways to encourage customer conversion to electronic presentment.

“We think it’s truly a win-win-win situation,” says Samantha Carrier, Senior Director of Advanced Payment Solutions for NACHA. “Going green is good for utilities, good for customers, and good for the environment.”

Author: George Roach, a Systems Specialist at Con Edison, has been at the helm of Con Edison’s electronic payments efforts since 1995 and instituted the public utility’s electronic bill presentment program in 2007. Recognized as an industry leader in electronic bill/pay, Roach was nominated by Bill Gates and inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s 2000 Computer World Permanent Research Collection in Washington, D.C. – one of the most venerated award programs in the information technology industry. Roach was further honored with the 2009 NACHA George Mitchell Payments System Excellence Award.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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