Smart devices have changed the way we interact with technology, and smart meters are no exception. Gone are the days when analog meters would only show how much energy was used, and monthly bills could offer little to help homeowners and businesses truly understand their power consumption. Now, smart meter data puts the power into customers’ hands by providing detailed, actionable information on their energy usage.

Chart listing the data capabilities of utility smart meters

Data capabilities of smart meters

  • Power consumption subdivided by devices and times
  • Grid health insight and power quality
  • Real-time notifications and remote control
  • Flexible utility services

Smart meters can monitor how much power customers are currently using, how many kilowatt-hours they’ve used, and even which devices are using that electricity. Basic data is shared with customers, allowing them to analyze their energy habits. Additionally, smart meter data is shared with utilities to provide insightful feedback and tailored energy savings suggestions.

But did you know that this powerful two-way connection can benefit both utilities and their customers in other ways? Real-time, accurate data can be used for much more than just monthly energy check-ins at the end of each billing cycle.

Unlocking the Potential of Smart Meter Data

As more utilities and their customers switch to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), more data about individual energy use and the overall grid will be available. As a result, the capabilities of managing consumption will only expand.

Chart illustrating how the smart grid shares data between the utility and customers

This data also offers utilities a nonintrusive way to learn more about their customers and better tailor services to each individual. Read on to learn how to use smart meter data — including energy consumption patterns, peak demand times, load profiles and more — to strengthen your utility’s relationships with homeowners and businesses.

3 ways to enhance customer communications with smart meter data

1. Energy education and programs

Customer usage data, especially concerning specific appliances, can inform utilities on areas where more education could be useful. While many large-scale studies on energy use may take months or even years to produce usable data that can influence programs, real-time smart meter data is transmitted in minutes.

Accurate bills and reliable forecasts can help customers on a monetary level. These numbers can be used by the utility to make tailored recommendations for energy savings. But, that’s not all. For example, if a customer uses appliances inefficiently, such as leaving large electronics on all night, smart meter data can offer insight on what programs or rate plans could benefit them.

2. Customer segmentation

The more your utility learns about customers and how they use energy, the better it can segment them based on needs, preferences and behaviors. Utilities can use these learnings to tailor offers and services accordingly.

For example, customers with old, inefficient appliances could benefit from information about potential rebates available on new appliances purchased. A customer who uses most of their energy during off-peak hours could benefit from information about time-of-use rate plans.

Illustration demonstrating how utilities use smart meter data to improve customer communications about appliance use

Depending on how customers respond to initial interest emails, your utility may be able to send even more tailored communications in the future.

3. Grid resilience + reliability

Did you know that the American electric grid is more than 100 years old? Though it’s seen quite a few infrastructure updates since then, very few have had as much impact as smart technology.  

Smart meters are just a part of a larger, connected system that makes up the smart grid, which uses renewable energy systems and other advanced equipment to increase the strength and reliability of electricity.

Data received from smart meters provide insight into the current load placed on the grid, especially if the capacity is nearing its limit. High-demand periods can typically be predicted before they occur, and potential outages can be detected and even prevented thanks to the data gathered by this smart system.

By understanding your customers’ needs, your utility can provide tips and information to help them better manage their energy use, strengthening your relationship with customers.  

Challenges of Using Smart Meter Data

Though the number of smart meter installations is steadily climbing each year, that doesn’t mean that all customers immediately accept the new technology. Security concerns have been the source of fear for quite a few years, especially when it comes to fears that utilities will use that information in unwanted ways. Providing answers to customer questions is crucial to maintaining a trusting relationship.

Common concerns among customers include the accuracy and privacy of their smart meter data.

1. Accuracy

After decades of trust in analog meters, some customers have questions concerning the accuracy of smart meters when it comes to measuring energy use.

Customers can rest easy knowing all meter manufacturers are required to test for accuracy and provide those results, proving that they follow the performance standards set by the American National Standards Institute. Before a meter ever reaches a customer’s property, it has been tested multiple times to ensure it will provide on-the-mark measurements.

Plus, real-time data transmission between the meter and utility keeps everyone in the loop and can immediately cause an alert if any part of the system is malfunctioning.

2. Privacy

Data security may be the most common concern with most new technology, and smart meters are no exception.

Advanced security and encryption technology are used by utilities to protect customer data, and smart meters fall under that same level of protection. Unless a customer has other smart devices or an energy management system that can break down usage by appliance, utilities will only receive data concerning how much energy is used and at what time.

Customers can customize their smart meter experience based on their personal preferences and choose to keep detailed information private. Communication is key to ensure customers that their data will be safe with smart meters.

Illustration showing how the smart grid utilizes data from different customers

Use Smart Meter Data to Strengthen Customer Relationships

Data collection has become standard across many industries, and not all of it is used for good. Maintaining a strong, trusting relationship requires handling all data safely and securely, and walking a fine line between providing valuable suggestions and overstepping boundaries.

Learning more about your customers through smart meter data is an effective way to determine what services they could use most and to build programs that serve these needs.

Use data to build stronger customer relationships with an engagement solution from Questline Digital.

An effective digital marketing strategy is essential for reaching utility customers and establishing a long-lasting digital relationship over time. To genuinely connect with customers, utilities must embrace a relevant outreach strategy.

As another year has come and gone, the digital marketing landscape has continued to evolve with the emergence of new trends and technologies. It’s crucial for utilities to adapt to the evolving digital marketing landscape to ensure their communications are relevant and engaging for customers.

Our recent webinar, “2024 Digital Marketing Trends and Best Practices,” provided insights and strategies from marketing experts Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital’s VP of Marketing and Content Strategy, and Jonathan Nelson, Sr. Digital Marketing Manager, Growth with the American Marketing Association. They discussed what’s new in the digital marketing world as well as best practices for the upcoming year to revolutionize the way utilities engage with customers.

What’s new and trending for digital marketing in 2024?

  • Content Marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media
  • Artificial Intelligence

Content Marketing Trends for 2024

To kick off the webinar, Nelson introduced the EEAT, which stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

This is a framework used by Google to evaluate content for search engine optimization, or SEO. Content that encompasses EEAT is more likely to show up on the first page of Google search results, which makes it a valuable guide to follow while creating content.

Nelson recommends that utilities should incorporate the EEAT framework in everything they do. He advises to consider your audience and assess if your content is engaging and consumable.

“You’re writing for someone who is not nearly as involved in the industry as you are. Take time to explain and walk them along the process and your thoughts,” says Nelson. “My general recommendation is to write something that you want to read. You should be publishing and creating content that you’re excited about.”

The concept of EEAT lends itself to the work Questline Digital does with utilities nationwide. “EEAT is right in the wheelhouse of how we create content for utilities. Content marketing is a chance to educate customers about utility topics to inform them without being promotional. You can explain programs without directly selling,” says Lindamood. As content becomes educational and engaging, it builds trust among customers and reinforces the utility’s authenticity.

Newsletter Trends for 2024

Newsletters are another way that EEAT and authenticity can be implemented into utility digital marketing strategies. Newsletters provide a chance for utilities to establish a digital relationship with customers that extends beyond the monthly bill. They are an engaging and meaningful touchpoint that offers an opportunity to add value to customers on a consistent basis.

“No one likes parting with their money. Having a form of communication where you aren’t asking for money and you’re just providing value is a fantastic route for any organization to go after,” says Nelson. “I think utility companies in particular have a huge opportunity to help educate and reach out to their community.”

Lindamood agreed, explaining that newsletters are an especially effective way to deliver relevant and timely information directly to a customer’s inbox. “As a consumer, it saves time and cuts out the digital clutter of trying to find that information on your own time,” he says.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) utilized this approach, establishing a monthly residential email newsletter that included educational content for customers, plus information on the utility’s programs. As a result of this implementation, SWEPCO saw a substantial increase in J.D. power scores for customer satisfaction and increased participation in its energy efficiency programs. 

Like SWEPCO, the results of consistent digital communications, such as newsletters, can be substantial. “Newsletters have an impact on your overall brand and company health,” says Nelson.

Social Media Trends for 2024

Harnessing social media is imperative for proactive digital marketing and customer outreach strategies. “Social media and content marketing are linked very closely together. I don’t think one works super well without the other,” says Nelson.

Many industries, including the utility industry, use social media not just for content marketing but also as a customer service channel. For effective customer service, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook were recommended by Nelson, as they are ubiquitous and have robust direct messaging services.

TikTok and Instagram reels, centered around videos, offer an ideal platform for sharing educational and entertaining content. “Utility companies might not necessarily think that they are out there to entertain always, but they absolutely are,” says Nelson. “When people are on social media they’re looking for something to make their day better.”

In fact, businesses that are not traditionally associated with social media are succeeding. Nelson provided an example from the Milwaukee Public Library, which is effectively creating entertaining content on TikTok and encouraging engagement. The library’s efforts are enticing more visitors to the library, a substantial win for digital marketing tactics. With the rise in TikTok and Instagram Reels, vertical videos have become common and Nelson doesn’t see this changing anytime soon.

Another popular social media platform, LinkedIn, had a major algorithm update to their feed this past June, which now works similarly to the EEAT framework. This means that the more that content follows EEAT — experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness — the more likely it is to show up on LinkedIn users’ feeds, therefore increasing engagement.

While many usages of social media from X to TikTok are rapidly increasing, organic social media reach for companies has been declining and is continuing to do so. Nelson advises utilities not to be discouraged. He explains, “It’s just how the system works.”

Artificial Intelligence Trends for 2024

It’s widely recognized that artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important tool and widely discussed topic for marketers. “Something is new with AI every day,” says Nelson. “Don’t wait to start using it. Get comfortable through trial and error and give it a shot.” 

AI signifies a transformative change in technology, reshaping the functioning of various industries, and carries the potential to revolutionize the landscape of digital marketing. Nelson mentioned that AI has streamlined workflows and made it easier to solve marketing challenges, without replacing digital creators.

There are concerns with the accuracy and security of AI, but Nelson and Lindamood both recommend that these concerns can be mitigated with human oversight. While AI has not reached the stage of surpassing human capabilities, it stands as a highly valuable resource to make humans more efficient and effective in their work.

“It’s here to stay,” says Nelson. “This is going to be the next internet, the next smartphone. This is something that is going to change how everything functions.”

Quotation advice about artificial intelligence for 2024 digital marketing trends

Overall Best Practices for 2024 Digital Marketing Trends

  • Go where your audience is, not just where you want to be.
  • Use personalization and segmentation to make sure your messages are relevant to customers’ interests.
  • Don’t get bogged down in other people’s best practices; do what is right for your utility.
  • Make sure your marketing strategy is driven by business goals, not the other way around. You should be communicating with customers for a reason.

All of these best practices are driven by consumers interests, preferences and needs. “Everything you do should have a purpose,” says Nelson. “Meet your customers where they are.”

An example from AEP Ohio highlighted the importance of providing relevant content to customers. The utility sought to increase engagement among business customers. To do so, the utility implemented monthly newsletters that were segmented by industry type, including healthcare, education and manufacturing. The results of this segmentation campaign were substantial, driving up to an 84% increase in customer engagement.

“AEP Ohio’ success underscores the point that customers will engage with content that they’re interested in, that’s relevant to them,” says Lindamood, “and a segmented content strategy is a good way to achieve that.”

An effective digital marketing strategy is critical for utilities to meet customer’s expectations and engage with them in their preferred channels. Incorporate the latest trends and strategies into your utility’s strategy and reinvigorate your digital marketing efforts for 2024.

Learn how Questline Digital can enhance your utility’s digital marketing strategy and build stronger relationships with your customers.

In today’s rapidly evolving utility landscape, keeping employees up to speed with the latest industry trends and best practices is essential. For energy utility program managers and key account managers, the need for continuous learning is even more critical to ensure they have the tools to understand customer needs and build customer satisfaction. One effective solution is using webinars to train utility employees.

Using webinars for training offers an opportunity to deliver complex information in an engaging manner. Regardless of the location of the employee or their schedule, webinars for utility employees can provide evergreen content in an engaging format that can be presented live and recorded for on-demand viewing.

The Educational Potential of Webinars for Utility Employees

Webinars are live, online educational presentations where viewers can submit questions and comments in real time. Using webinars for training allows participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions, and engage with the content, irrespective of their geographical location or time zone.

“There’s a level of engagement that’s available in a live webinar experience that cannot be matched by just watching a video or reading an article,” says Chris Loehrer, Questline Digital Webinar Manager. “You can do real-time Q&A, you can provide real-time resources to the attendees to increase their value proposition for you.”

The concept of webinars dates back to the 1990s when software was developed to enable business conference calls. Since then, they have grown into a prevalent tool for organizations to share information and connect with vast audiences.

In the context of energy utilities, using webinars for training can be particularly powerful. They provide a platform for program managers, key account managers and marketers to deliver complex industry-specific information in an interactive format. Whether it’s about the latest renewable energy technologies, regulatory updates, or demand response programs, webinars can effectively bridge the knowledge gap, foster dialogue and facilitate learning.

“While customers have goals they’re trying to reach as an individual, employees have goals that they’re trying to reach as an organization,” says Loehrer. “Webinars allow for an active learning experience for both groups and are particularly effective training methods.”

Webinars offer a perfect blend of convenience and interactivity. In an age where utility key account managers need to “have all the answers” for their customers, webinars for utility employees provide an easy way to access that information. They allow energy utility professionals to stay updated with the industry’s fast-paced changes without disrupting their schedules. Plus, the real-time interaction of webinars enables immediate clarification of doubts or questions, promoting a deeper understanding of the topics discussed.

Why Webinars are Ideal for Utility Employee Training

Using webinars for training is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. For one, they offer unparalleled convenience in terms of location and time flexibility. Unlike traditional in-person seminars or conferences, webinars eliminate the need for travel, allowing employees to participate from anywhere with an internet connection. Plus, webinar platforms offer the option to record sessions, meaning that employees can access the training materials at a time that suits them best, creating an array of evergreen content for employees to use in the future.

“Webinars exceed other methods of education,” says Loehrer. “They give context to content that’s hard to translate in, say, a whitepaper. You can’t beat live or video content. Plus, articles, infographics and whitepapers can all be integrated into a webinar event. I see webinar events as a launch point for continued content.”

Webinars also have the capacity to reach multiple employees simultaneously. This scalability makes webinars for utility employees a cost-effective training solution. Whether your utility is using webinars for training 10 employees or a thousand, the cost effectively remains the same. Plus, the ability to deliver consistent training to all employees ensures that everyone gets the same information, reducing discrepancies in knowledge and skills across your utility.

A Southeast utility, for example, utilized Questline Digital’s webinar program to increase training opportunities for its account managers. With a one-person training team and busy internal subject matter experts, the utility simply didn’t have the time or resources to produce quality educational assets for its 300-plus employees.

Example of a utility using webinars to train new employees

By producing webinars for a wide range of industries that its account managers worked in, such as architecture and manufacturing, the utility’s account managers were able to stay engaged in topics that interested them, while also learning on their own time and at their own pace. The webinars were also recorded and made available for account managers to access on-demand for continuing education unit (CEU) credits.

The interactive features of webinars for utility employees are key: encouraging active participation, which is critical for effective learning. Most webinar platforms support real-time Q&A sessions, polls and surveys, allowing employees to engage with both the content and the presenter. This two-way communication fosters a more dynamic learning environment, promotes deeper understanding, and makes the training more enjoyable and engaging.

“You have to consider — would you enjoy this webinar experience?” says Loehrer. “The focus needs to be on the content and the execution of the content. You need to make it as engaging as possible to keep the attention of those who it’s mandatory for, but also attract the people for whom it’s optional.”

How to Effectively Implement Webinars for Employee Training

Webinars for utility employees are a flexible, scalable, and interactive tool for training and education. Whether it’s sharing industry best practices, discussing emerging trends or teaching new technologies, webinars enable utilities to reach a wide audience and make a significant impact on their employee and customer engagement.

Implementing webinars for utility employees involves careful planning and execution. You have to use expanded resources — there are too many specialties and integrations available in a webinar experience. Having someone who is dedicated and has the expertise to leverage, guide and develop a webinar experience for your utility will help drive its success.

Loehrer says there are a few things to consider when planning a webinar:

  • Know what your attendees need to know in the next three, six and 12 months
  • Establish and align your webinar to the goals you’re trying to achieve
  • Outline the curriculum and the time frame
  • Brainstorm different formats to vary the type of delivery
  • Consider what subject matter experts you can include or interview
  • Build a story arc that can help you in developing further training series

Additional elements to consider when developing webinars include:

  • Choose a reliable webinar platform that suits your organization’s needs. Questline Digital’s webinar platform, for example, offers various features like screen sharing, real-time Q&A and recording capabilities.
  • Decide on the topic of your webinar and prepare a clear, concise presentation that covers this topic in depth. Remember to include a mix of different content types, such as slides, videos and live demonstrations, to keep the session interactive and engaging.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The importance of holding a dry run of the event can’t be overstated. Dry runs allow your utility to ensure your presenters feel comfortable and ensure any technology difficulties are settled behind the live event.

Keeping your audience engaged during a webinar presentation is crucial for effective learning. One way to achieve this is by encouraging active participation. Questline Digital often uses polls and surveys throughout the webinars to gather instant feedback and maintain audience interest. Plus, a designated Q&A time toward the end of the webinar lets audience members get their questions answered in real time. After the webinar, provide downloadable resources such as the presentation deck to those who attended as well as those who registered but didn’t attend live.

Loehrer says that using the text chat feature during a webinar event is essential. “People love to ask questions anonymously, they love to read other people’s questions and see answers from the experts,” he says. “They love to have a certain amount of levity without any pressure, and then all that data that’s collected in a chat is qualifiable data to use in your follow-up communications.”

Additionally, it’s important to develop and promote webinars in a way that makes attendees want to come back for more. “You should be serializing your content. Don’t have a customer come and only watch one and think they’re getting their entire knowledge base from one event,” says Loehrer.

The effectiveness of using webinars for training can be seen in other qualitative and quantitative ways. Gauging attendees’ interest by their poll responses and questions is one way. Another way is reviewing the metrics of the webinar, including:

  • Registrations
  • Attendees
  • Registration-to-attendance rate
  • Average time in the room
  • Average time engaged

By understanding these metrics, your utility can better prepare future events to boost engagement and education amongst employees.

What’s Next for Webinar-Based Utility Training?

The future of using webinars for training in the energy utility industry is promising, with digital learning and webinars becoming increasingly prevalent tools for knowledge sharing. According to a report by the Electricity Markets and Policy Group, webinars on various energy-related topics, including renewable energy, electric system planning and energy efficiency, are becoming more common. These webinars not only provide information on the latest developments but also allow for interactive discussions on emerging trends and challenges.

The growing demand for flexible, remote learning solutions suggests that webinars will continue to be popular. As the utility industry continues to evolve, so too will the need for ongoing education on new technologies, regulations and best practices. Using webinars as a training tool offers a scalable, cost-effective solution for meeting this need. By using webinars for training, utilities can ensure that their employees stay informed, skilled and ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression. Don’t haphazardly jump into content delivery,” says Loehrer. “It’s about engagement, engagement, engagement. Make these topics interesting. Partner with someone so you can concentrate on the content and make it effective. You can’t just go into this — you have to have a strategy in place or else it’s going to fail.”

Learn how Questline Digital’s webinar solution can support your utility’s employee training needs.

Beneficial electrification has become a popular marketing theme among energy utilities and cooperatives, but the concept is still unfamiliar to many customers. Don’t let that get in the way of communicating this powerful message about the benefits of electrification. The term may be a mouthful, but beneficial electrification can improve customers’ lives in a variety of ways.

To fully communicate the benefits of electrification, energy utilities must answer their customers’ questions, which can range from the most basic definition of beneficial electrification to how they can electrify their homes and businesses once they determine it’s a good fit for them.

Here we break down the most common questions and how you can better equip both residential and business customers with the knowledge they need to make smarter energy choices.

What is Beneficial Electrification?

Beneficial electrification is the process of replacing the direct use of fossil fuels with electricity to reduce overall emissions and energy costs. When consumers switch to electricity — such as replacing a heating oil furnace with an electric heat pump or switching from a gasoline-powered car to an electric vehicle — they benefit through cost savings, convenience and a cleaner environment.

Utilities should make the benefits of electrification clear to customers with regular reminders and marketing campaigns. But remember, your customers likely do not know what beneficial electrification means. You may want to use more relatable phrases in your messaging to capture their attention.

Chart listing ways to communicate the benefits of electrification with utility customers

Beneficial electrification is more than fuel switching. Fuel switching is a short-term solution, where beneficial electrification is a long-term approach to replacing fossil fuels. A good way to determine if an initiative meets beneficial electrification standards is to consider the following conditions:  

For customers, think about: 

  • Does it save them money?
  • Is it good for the environment?
  • Does it improve their quality of life?

When it comes to your utility, think:

  • Does it improve the reliability or efficiency of the grid?

It will meet beneficial electrification standards if it can satisfy one of these conditions without adversely affecting the others.

What Can Be Electrified?

Beneficial electrification is most often applied to transportation, space heating, cooking and water heating. For utilities and co-ops, this is where content marketing can help connect the dots.

For residential customers, it’s essential to illustrate the switch to electric vehicles, electric lawnmowers, heat pumps, induction stovetops and other residential appliances. For commercial customers, facility electrification such as process technologies, electric forklifts and other equipment are more relevant.

How Does Beneficial Electrification Save Money?

Electrifying systems, devices and more can help utility customers lower their energy bills. While electrification will typically result in higher electric bills, significant savings can be achieved elsewhere, such as customers’ vehicle fuel bills. “Reducing energy spend” may be a more accurate phrase to describe the overall financial benefits of electrification.

However, the cost of electricity itself is a barrier. For example, potential EV purchasers may have the perception that gas is cheaper, which is true in some cases. They need to get past the cost of a gallon of gas (or a kilowatt-hour) to see how electric vehicles are much more efficient than internal combustion engines overall, not to mention that EVs come with lower maintenance costs. EV owners will save about $1,000 per year on fuel, with total cost-of-ownership savings of up to $10,000 over the life of an EV.

Share helpful content that gives your customers step-by-step suggestions to electrify their homes and businesses. Getting valuable advice from a trusted source can make them feel more comfortable and confident as they begin the long electrification process.

Does Beneficial Electrification Help the Environment?

Electricity gets cleaner every day, with more of the nation’s supply being generated from renewable sources. For example, carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour from electric power generation decreased 36% from 2005 to 2021. By driving the transition away from fossil fuels, beneficial electrification is having a major impact on the environment.

EVs are a great example of beneficial electrification. Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and reduce well-to-wheels emissions by at least 20%. Electric power generated by renewables adds to that advantage — ultimately up to 100% reduction in carbon emissions.

Aren’t Fossil Fuels Used to Generate Electricity?

A big point of confusion in the conversation about electrification surrounds the idea of what it means to truly “go green.” Although we are slowly transitioning to clean, renewable power generation, fossil fuels are still burned to produce electricity. So, although they’re “going electric,” some customers are concerned that it may not be enough — or even “count” — if it still requires the use of harmful fossil fuels.

However, beneficial electrification doesn’t require that 100% of their electricity come from clean energy sources. New electric-powered equipment and appliances are much more energy-efficient than the devices they replace.

Heat pump efficiency has risen from 10 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) to close to 20 SEER — that’s 500% efficient! — for cooling, and from 6 HSPF (heating seasonal performance factor) to 10 FSPF — 250% efficient! — for heating in a couple of decades. Natural gas furnaces are 92% efficient.

In the short term, the consumer is reducing their overall energy use by upgrading to a new electric appliance; in the long term, that electricity will come from increasingly green sources.

What Are the Benefits of Electrification?

There are many benefits to electrification, ranging from helping residential customers save energy to supporting a cleaner, more resilient grid for their community. Other benefits of electrification include:

  • Reduced emissions
  • Grid-connected appliances and systems
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced likelihood of power outages
  • Decreased maintenance costs
  • Reduced operating costs
  • Minimal interruptions with energy storage

There are also application-specific benefits of electrification, including:

  • Induction cooktops heat food more quickly
  • Electric vehicles lower the operating costs of fleets
  • Heat pumps are quieter, more efficient and require less maintenance
  • Smart technology can make life easier by connecting devices
  • Electric lawn tools don’t require potentially dangerous fuel storage

Communicating the benefits of electrification to your customers with specific examples shows them how beneficial electrification can impact and improve their daily lives.

What Are the Barriers to Electrification?

Though the expected benefits may be enough to get your customers intrigued, there are a few barriers to beneficial electrification residential and business customers may encounter, including:

  • The low cost of natural gas
  • Range anxiety for electric vehicles
  • Increased capital cost for electric equipment
  • Lack of customer awareness of alternative electric technologies
  • Lack of trained installers and repair technicians for advanced technologies like variable-refrigerant flow HVAC and heat pump water heaters
  • Misconceptions that industrial equipment like electric forklifts are underpowered and batteries cannot last a full shift
  • Safety concerns for electric lift trucks in wet weather conditions

Despite these hurdles, beneficial electrification can save customers money, reduce emissions and improve quality of life, all without negatively impacting the grid.

With these benefits in mind, it’s clear that customers are going to become more interested in beneficial electrification options and will look to their utility as a resource for better managing their energy use. That’s why it’s imperative to be ready with content and answers to any questions they may have as they begin their electrification journey.

How do you communicate the benefits of electrification to customers? Learn how to power your campaigns with a Content Marketing Strategy from Questline Digital.

Your energy utility plays an important role in encouraging customers to go electric. However, there are several key challenges for electric vehicle (EV) adoption that prevent customers from making the switch from gasoline-powered vehicles. In fact, up to 315,000 more EVs could have been on the road last year if adoption barriers were removed.Learn more about the top four customer roadblocks and the best ways to dispel these concerns in your program promotions.

Chart listing the key challenges to EV adoption and how to overcome them

High upfront cost

What energy customers think: Today’s consumers know that electric vehicles are a viable solution to reduce their carbon footprint and improve the environment. However, one of the key challenges for EV adoption is the high upfront cost. Your customers may not be aware of the various incentives available to help lower the purchase cost.

An average electric vehicle costs $61,488, with some electric vehicles costing over $100,000 for luxury models. While this is still more expensive than many gasoline-powered vehicles, that gap is decreasing every year, especially with incentives and maintenance savings for EVs. Additionally, the cost of a Level 2 home charger starts around $500 to $800, with $1000 to $1500 for the installation of a new service panel and 240-volt outlet if needed.

What your message should be: While electric vehicles have higher upfront costs, they are less expensive to own and operate. Therefore, customers are able to save money over the long run. Since there are fewer moving parts to break down, electric vehicles are also cheaper to maintain. Plus, customers never have to worry about getting an oil change.

To counteract this key challenge for EV adoption, be sure to provide your customers with helpful resources on federal and state incentives. Another significant benefit of purchasing an electric vehicle is not worrying about high gas prices. Remind customers that they can avoid the gas station altogether as EV owners. Make this cost-of-ownership comparison clear with infographics and calculators on your website that help customers educate themselves on vehicle options.

Range anxiety

What energy customers think: One of the top key challenges for EV adoption is range anxiety, or a fear that their electric vehicle will run out of charge before reaching its destination. In fact, range anxiety is often cited as the main reason why consumers are hesitant about purchasing an electric vehicle.

Range anxiety is a feeling of dread when drivers can’t find an open charging station and worry about being stranded on the side of the road. It’s important to note that drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles can also experience range anxiety. This can happen when a driver’s fuel level drops too low and they can’t find a gas station.

What your message should be: To reduce range anxiety, educate your customers about how electric vehicles can fit into their everyday lives. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average American in an urban area drives just 31 miles per day. Most EVs can travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, and some models can travel between 200 and 400 miles. For drivers who don’t regularly drive long distances, an electric vehicle can be a practical option.

Access to charging stations

What energy customers think: Another key challenge for EV adoption, your customers think there’s a limited number of EV charging stations compared to the number of gas stations. As a result, they have concerns about access to charging infrastructure. For example, when taking a road trip, customers want to be confident that plentiful charging stations are available along the route.

What your message should be: Inform your customers that charging stations are popping up everywhere as electric vehicles grow in popularity. EV charging stations can be found in various locations like shopping centers, local businesses, apartment complexes and more. There are also charging stations in every state, including Alaska. To help your customers find charging station locations, share this helpful resource from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Currently, there are 103,000 charging stations (free and private) in the United States. However, there are only 9,300 free charging stations that don’t require a parking fee to access. In comparison, there are more than 145,000 public gas stations, illustrating that EV charging stations still lag behind.

Your energy utility should educate customers on the importance of home EV chargers and offer rebates to help offset the costs. In fact, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy finds that over 80% of EV charging occurs at home during the overnight hours. If customers make a habit of plugging in their electric vehicle every night, they will be less likely to experience range anxiety or even need access to a charging station. It’s also important to highlight that customers can charge their vehicles for free at public charging stations, eliminating the cost to charge altogether. By providing educational resources with charging station locations as well as cost-saving rebates, energy utilities can mitigate this key challenge for EV adoption.

Impact on electric bill

What energy customers think: Many consumers like the idea of owning an electric vehicle but have concerns about higher electric bills or overall power reliability. In addition to the impact on their monthly bill, your customers also have questions about at-home charging options:

  • What charging options are available?
  • How much do they cost?
  • How long does it take to charge an EV?
  • What type of equipment is required for installation?

What your message should be: Reach out to EV customers to share time-of-use (TOU) rate options to help them reduce their monthly bills. By charging during off-peak hours, they can save energy costs and help lower demand on the grid. Also be sure to share opportunities for customers to save money when they purchase an electric vehicle, whether through your utility or a government program.

If your energy utility has a smart charger rebate program, educate customers about the pros and cons of each charger. For example, Level 2 smart chargers offer faster charging times but do not plug into a standard 120-volt household outlet. Customers are looking to their energy provider to help them decide what charger is the right fit for their lifestyle and budget. Infographics, videos and articles on your website can help educate customers on the best option for them. By countering these key challenges for EV adoption, your energy utility can help drive interest in electric vehicles and increase customer engagement in your EV program promotions.

A content strategy from Questline Digital can help you overcome the key challenges to EV adoption.