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.

The pace of change for the electric vehicle (EV) industry has hit warp speed as funding and government mandates continue to be approved. “Faster than a sprint” is how Whitney Skeans, Senior Program Manager of Electric Vehicles at National Grid, describes it.

Utilities nationwide are under pressure to reach aggressive EV goals. For example, National Grid is one of six utilities supporting the implementation of New York State’s EV Make-Ready Program. Specifically, Skeans and her team are focused on installing 16,000 charging ports by 2025 in their upstate New York electric service territory. On the other side of the country, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is committed to having 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

With so much to accomplish, how are utilities progressing toward these large EV initiatives? Through discussions with National Grid and SDG&E, the following tactics stood out:

  1. Focus EV education on specific audiences among key customer segments, no longer using a mass awareness approach
  2. Tell the stories of EV owners throughout the community with events, videos, media relations and more
  3. Help underserved audiences access EV infrastructure
  4. Facilitate test drives for commercial and residential customers
  5. Focus on medium- and heavy-duty fleet electrification, the higher carbon-emitting vehicles
  6. Build digital self-serve hubs about available incentives, installers and more
  7. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration within the utility to accelerate innovation

Getting Specific with EV Education

Consumers know what EVs are, but some people are just now starting to pay attention. Utilities may feel like they have been talking about EVs for a long time, but this new audience needs education on both EV basics and options.

“We need to be the trusted resource for all of our customers,” said Natasha Contreras, Clean Transportation Customer Engagement Manager at SDG&E, referring to the importance of supporting residential and commercial audiences.

“We shifted our role from generic mass awareness to more specific education,” she continued. “We’re trying to fill in the voids and segments we feel are the hardest to electrify. Over 50% of housing in San Diego county consists of multi-unit dwellings, which means that many local residents may not have the benefit of having a garage of their own to install charging.”

This shift in focus has led many utilities to prioritize commercial audiences, where there are opportunities to build charging infrastructure that provides equitable access. Hotels and multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) sit at the top of the priority list.

We’re dealing with the classic chicken or egg scenario. Some businesses hesitate to invest in charging structures until they see more EVs on the road. But consumers are hesitant to buy because the infrastructure isn’t yet widespread. Utilities are working relentlessly to help solve both sides of the equation.

Focusing on Fleet Electrification

The six-person EV implementation team at National Grid is working hard to share incentives and help its commercial customers safely build infrastructure. “The dirtiest vehicles on the road are medium- and heavy-duty, so the sooner they can be electrified, the closer we can achieve climate goals,” added Skeans.

School districts are ideal candidates for fleet electrification. In New York alone, 44,000 diesel buses need to switch to electric. By 2027, diesel buses will no longer be for sale, leaving utilities in a time crunch to build the necessary electrical charging.

Yet, school districts find themselves daunted by the expenses associated with buying the buses; electric vehicles can cost 3x the diesel price. How do they schedule routes and prepare for weather-related issues negatively impacting battery performance?

National Grid provides schools with complementary fleet assessments, putting together recommended plans for buying vehicles, looking at site feasibility and grid capacity, then guiding customers through the steps to get there. Over 100 school districts were invited to pursue these programs in 2022.

Across the country in San Diego, where battery reserves don’t endure as much stress from cold temperatures, SDG&E is working with school districts to run Vehicle to Grid (V2G) pilot programs with their existing electric fleets. Sitting idle most of the day, a parking lot of electric buses offers a new energy source.

But timelines are causing anxiety for some. Electrification plans take a customer two to 12 months to implement. But if distribution upgrades are needed, that could jump to one to four years. And if transmission or substation upgrades are required, that timeline can extend beyond four years.

Customers need to be engaged early if goals are to be met. Utilities are stepping up to ensure their customers have access to all the education, guidance and financial aid available.

Telling More EV Success Stories

To properly help customers navigate the EV landscape and build organic connections, the National Grid team is talking to people in their community. “My superpower is outreach,” explains Skeans. And that’s highly evident when looking at how broadly she’s telling the story of EVs.

Skeans has connected with local Chambers of Commerce, business affinity groups, architectural, engineering and construction management firms, tourism boards, electrical contractors, risk management associations for banks, insurance providers and more. She is also leveraging digital tools like webinars to host virtual sessions that help audiences understand what the new EV requirements and opportunities mean.

“Business customers aren’t going to invest in chargers unless there is public demand, so let’s educate, let’s boost everyone’s awareness, get people excited about EVs and ultimately behind the wheel of one,” said Skeans. Event presentations and first-person case studies top the list of successful strategies. “Telling stories is really, really key.”

For San Diego Gas & Electric, in-person events have dropped from 75 pre-pandemic to just a handful post. But their annual EV Day event remains strategically significant.

SDG&E provides attendees the opportunity to experience and test drive the latest consumer electric vehicles. Without on-hand inventory at the dealerships due to supply chain issues, many buyers cannot drive before they buy. SDG&E aims to overcome the barrier of accessibility, even hosting adaptive ride-and-drive events, providing customers with functional needs a chance to get behind the wheel of EVs that have been retrofitted with hand controls.

Facilitating first-hand experiences and sharing the journeys of like-minded consumers is helping utilities nationwide to connect with target audiences.

Offering Self-Service Tools

Digitally, many utilities are building self-serve hubs where information is easily navigable and incentives may be applied for. Helpful articles and videos allow customers to self-educate about program benefits and next steps.

“We consider ourselves a central location,” explains Contreras. “There is a constant need to keep up with the latest funding incentives. We’re shifting more toward self-service tools on our website, including rate cost estimators, electrician finders, charger finders and incentive qualifications.”

Today’s consumers prefer to research independently before involving third parties. These hubs allow utilities to act as a resource without taxing call centers.

Working Together to Drive the Future of Electric Vehicles

SDG&E takes a holistic approach to ensuring customers can access available EV aid. The entire utility gets involved. “It takes a village. It’s not just getting the car, it’s everything that comes with it,” said Contreras. “The whole package. It’s the chargers. It’s the rates that are applicable to make sure the transition is smooth. It’s the construction that has to take place.”

Mass EV adoption is going to require widespread influence. As more people plug in, EVs’ significant role in reaching larger sustainability goals becomes more apparent.

National Grid is also experiencing the benefits of departmental collaboration. “Our teams are more integrated as we grow and develop,” explains Skeans, referring specifically to the ties between the utility’s EV and demand response programs.

No one department can operate independently. Everyone today, from key account and program managers to engineers and legislators, has their hand in the EV mix.

Interest in EVs has never been higher. But much work still needs to be done to reach the aggressive adoption goals set for 2027 and beyond.

Utilities nationwide are working tirelessly to educate key audiences, increase charging access and support grid resiliency. Through industry collaborations and proactive customer engagement, we’re on the road — a collaborative journey — to reaching zero emissions.

Educate your customers about the future of electric vehicles with a content strategy from Questline Digital.

As solar and other renewables become more affordable, many of the electric power consumers of yesterday are now active energy consumers and producers, or energy prosumers.

These utility customers invest in and install rooftop solar panels to generate the electricity they need and feed the excess electricity they produce back to the grid in exchange for credits or reductions to their energy bills.

Many households are also looking to battery electric vehicles and home battery storage systems that can be combined with solar panels to power their homes during outages. Some utilities, like PG&E in California, offer financial incentives to customers that install battery storage systems.

As electric consumption by U.S. households continues to climb, these energy prosumers will be a growing segment of a utility’s customer base. With approximately 4% of U.S. homes generating electricity from small-scale solar arrays, they already account for nearly one-third of all solar energy produced in the U.S. The International Energy Agency estimates that approximately 100 million households will rely on rooftop solar by 2030.

What is an Energy Prosumer?

An energy prosumer is a utility customer who generates their own power. For residential customers, this typically includes rooftop solar panels and home battery storage. Business customers may use larger-scale distributed energy resources (DERs), such as wind generation, solar arrays and battery storage.

Prosumers may sell their excess power back to the grid, becoming energy producers as well as consumers.

Building Relationships with Energy Prosumers

Energy prosumers are quickly changing the way utilities do business. Now that more and more customers are engaging with power production, these active customers will play a significant role as more renewable energy flows to the grid.

Utilities will be well served by educating and empowering these essential players, working with them as allies in meeting several mutually beneficial objectives:

  • Meet renewable energy mandates. With many states now requiring utilities to generate a specific percentage of their power from renewable sources, utilities are encouraging their energy-supplying customers to help them meet their net zero goals. In those states, many utilities offer customers a solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) with rooftop solar systems for each megawatt-hour of electricity they generate. Homeowners can use these SRECs to generate income.
  • Support solar investments. To encourage the adoption of solar, some utilities offer upfront rebates for installing solar panel systems that can, on average, reduce the cost of the system by as much as 20%.
  • Build trust. Utilities are building portals that provide their most active customers with straightforward and comprehensive access to information about installing solar systems or designing microgrids, assistance connecting their systems to the grid, access to the real-time grid and market data, and more. This encourages them to rely on the utility as a trusted energy partner.
  • Offer incentives. Forward-thinking utilities like Consumers Energy offer bill credits to energy prosumers for the extra energy they produce and discounts on the electricity they purchase. Utilities can also support their prosumer partners by providing discounts on maintenance and installation of solar equipment or technical support and educational services.

Building the utility-prosumer relationship benefits everyone. Customers are happier with lower bills and a reliable power supply during outages, while utilities can make progress toward their sustainability and customer satisfaction goals.

Marketing Tools to Encourage More Energy Prosumers

With the promise of a mutually beneficial relationship, why don’t all consumers become prosumers? It comes down to awareness, education, access and cost.

Awareness and Education

Many customers still don’t know they can return energy to the grid and get paid. Or that they can store power in batteries for future use. And if they do, many need help knowing where to get started.

For example, Super Bowl ads that showcased a Ford F-150 Lightning powering a home during an outage caught the attention of many customers previously uninterested in EVs. They were introduced to the idea of bidirectional charging but were left asking questions about its feasibility.

These newly interested customers need information on equipment, installation and safety. While the idea of sending energy back and forth might sound relatively simple, it’s a complex power conversion process that requires special chargers and careful installation.

Utilities can stand out in today’s crowded landscape with content — like email promotions, landing pages, checklists, blog posts and videos — that educate customers about the benefits of becoming a producer of renewable energy and guides them on how to get started.

Access and Cost

Even if an energy customer knows they want to become a prosumer, there are still hurdles to getting started. Finding reputable installers can be intimidating and the cost can feel out of reach.

For example, the Ford Charge Station Pro carries a price tag of $1,310, not to mention the F-150 Lightning vehicle, which ranges between $55,000 and $97,000.

Solar power storage systems aren’t cheap, either. Batteries can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $22,000.

Previously mentioned portals, incentives and rebates can make all the difference. Utilities that provide easy-to-access resources, like PSEG Long Island’s contractor list or PG&E’s incentive site, allow customers to act independently. Many customers want their utility to be a knowledgeable resource but still want to make home improvements on their own.

Opportunities to Grow with Energy Prosumers

The increasingly important role that energy prosumers play creates new opportunities for utilities to add value to their services and ramp up their efforts to ensure a resilient power grid. By using digital marketing tools and educational content to communicate with customers, the beneficial segment of prosumers can continue to grow.

Learn how a customer engagement strategy from Questline Digital can help build strong relationships with energy prosumers.