Sending a warm welcome message to customers goes a long way in establishing rapport and familiarizing your audience with your utility’s offerings. An effective welcome email tees up your audience for more inbox communications and lays the foundation for a positive customer experience.

When following welcome email best practices, your messages should do five things:

  1. Thank customers for joining
  2. Help customers get the most out of your offerings
  3. Invite engagement through calls to action
  4. Provide immediate value
  5. Set the tone for future email communications

At the start of their relationship with your energy utility, customers are more receptive to messages about your programs and services (think paperless billing and outage alerts). And once they graduate from a Welcome Series, they will be more engaged with subsequent communications — by a lot. Questline Digital’s Benchmarks data shows recipients of welcome emails are 30% to 50% more likely to open future emails compared to customers who don’t receive welcome emails from their energy utility.

Don’t miss your opportunity to communicate essential onboarding information and build strong digital customer relationships.

Quick Tips: 7 Welcome Email Best Practices

Follow these seven tips to accomplish customer engagement and onboarding goals with your energy utility’s welcome emails.

  1. Use a straightforward subject line.
  2. Keep messages succinct and focused on improving customer lives.
  3. Use pre-scheduled, automated emails to maximize engagement.
  4. Send the first email immediately upon service signup and trickle in additional details over the next 30 days.
  5. Include three to five emails in your Welcome Series.
  6. Employ segmentation.
  7. Regularly test and evaluate email content.

Use a straightforward subject line. Welcome emails are not the place to try click-bait subject lines. Instead, be transparent and straightforward. Try something simple like, “Thanks for letting us into your inbox! Now what?” or “Welcome to [utility name] — Let’s get started.”

Keep messages succinct and focused on improving customers’ lives. Make your messages short and use subheads, icons and bullets to make reading easy. Customers are busy and don’t have time for complex emails. Similarly, only include information that is imperative to customer success. Welcome emails should serve as scannable resource centers.

Use pre-scheduled, automated emails to maximize engagement. Makes things simple for yourself and build automated workflows for your welcome messages. You can build a single workflow that spreads out messages, sending them a few days apart. Or you could build multiple workflows, sending secondary emails based on actions taken (or not taken) in the first send.

Send the first email immediately upon service signup and trickle in additional details over the next 30 days. Send email number one immediately upon signup and schedule the rest to follow a planned cadence. Consumers assume either they did something wrong or your systems don’t work if they don’t get a welcome email right away.

Welcome Series with three to five emails perform best. With years of experience managing Welcome Series for utilities, Questline Digital data shows that sending too many or too few messages can equate to lost opportunities. The best-performing welcome email series templates include three to five emails.

Employ segmentation. Welcome email best practices include using segmentation to build multiple campaigns for different audiences. New customers, moving customers, small businesses and large businesses all need unique resources from their utility. Don’t disappoint customers with welcome resources that don’t address their specific requirements.

Regularly test and evaluate email contents. While automation allows you to technically “set it and forget it,” you should evaluate your welcome emails on a seasonal basis, or at least annually. Look to see if some topics receive more engagement than others, if CTAs are performing, and if the number of messages and cadence is successful.

Check out this mini case study from a fellow utility who whittled down their Welcome Series after evaluating the data. They dropped from six emails to five and reprioritized messages, ultimately improving engagement results.

Welcome Email Series Template for Energy Utilities

Every energy utility is different, but the content that often performs best in a Welcome Series campaign includes:

  • Introductory thank-you message. This is the most important message that receives the highest level of engagement. Keep it succinct and focused on improving customers’ lives.
  • Billing and digital channels. This message has the second-highest engagement rate. Introduce customers to your utility’s billing options and digital channels.
  • Outage resources. Inform customers of the variety of ways to receive outage updates and invite them to register for text notifications.
  • Community involvement. Use this message to focus on your energy utility’s community efforts and partnerships.
  • Safety or energy savings. Engage and educate customers on safety topics through videos, infographics or interactive quizzes. This message can also take a savings focus with promotions about energy efficiency rebates and programs.

Your utility may have different goals or messages to promote, but this flow of information — from thank you to must know to value-add — will help set up your customers for success.

Examples of Welcome Email Best Practices in Action

The best welcome email series follow a template. They always say “thank you” and help customers get the most out of company offerings. The following examples showcase welcome email best practices in action.

Nordstrom: This welcome message clearly illustrates the benefits of being a Nordy Club member and prompts customers to download a mobile app. Recipients feel taken care of and know what to expect going forward.

Example of welcome email best practices from Nordstrom

Amazon Prime: This welcome email has a clear CTA of “get started” along with secondary links to specific benefits. Amazon makes it clear they want me to finish building the customer’s profile in order to deliver the best customer experience.

Example of welcome email best practices from Amazon

Ahrefs: Using video to share a warm welcome message to customers helps to elevate your brand.This email also includes links to Ahrefs’ five main tools so customers can gain value right away.Subsequent emails include recaps and links to their most popular and helpful blog content.

Example of welcome email best practices from Ahrefs

Leverage Questline Digital’s welcome email templates to ace new customer engagement for your energy utility.

More than 81% of Americans own a smartphone, yet many consumers still receive their utility bill through snail mail. For energy utility marketers, encouraging customers to go paperless is no easy task. Customers are accustomed to receiving paper bills — and old habits can be hard to break.

Useful Tips for Encouraging Customers to Go Paperless

According to a Utilities & Telecom Consumer Payments Insight Report, while 66% of customers receive bills by mail, only 48% prefer to receive them this way. This report also finds that 45% of customers prefer to pay via an online/digital payment service. In other words, customers might be used to paying their bills with checks and stamps, but they are open to more convenient options.

The first step to encouraging customers to go paperless is acknowledging the barriers that hold them back. Once you accomplish this, then your energy utility can find the e-Bill benefits that would provide a positive impact on their daily lives. Through our work with energy utility companies across the country, we have found these five effective strategies for increasing e-Bill conversions.

1. Debunk paperless billing security concerns

For some customers, particularly older generations, a major concern about paperless billing is payment security. They are worried that their personal information could fall victim to scammers online. To encourage customers to go paperless, reinforce the safety of paperless billing and how it is often more secure than dropping a check in the mail.

The reality is paper statements are not free of fraud risk. Mail can be delivered to the incorrect address or intercepted into the wrong hands. Be sure to highlight the steps your energy utility takes to ensure customers’ personal information is protected.

2. Highlight payment reminders and other useful features

For many customers, paper bills are helpful reminders to ensure they pay their bill on time. Without a paper bill showing up in the mail each month, customers fear missing a payment. Encourage customers to go paperless by highlighting the convenience of email and text reminders.

Unlike paper statements, customers don’t have to be at home to receive them. In fact, they can be on a beach vacation and receive a text reminder that their bill is due. With alerts sent straight to a customer’s smartphone, paperless billing actually provides more effective reminders than old-fashioned paper bills.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with payment reminder

It behooves energy utilities to promote the other useful features, including easy access to current and past bills in My Account. Nowadays, everyone is looking for ways to reduce paper clutter and simplify their lives. Your customers will appreciate this convenient option for keeping track of their bills. Instead of storing paper bills in a filing cabinet or desk drawer, electronic statements are available in My Account for safe recordkeeping. You can encourage customers to go paperless by promoting these useful, yet lesser known, benefits of ebill.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless by saving time

3. Showcase the convenience of ebilling

With our on-the-go schedules, everyone is looking for less stress and more convenience. One of the most popular benefits of paperless billing is the flexibility of “anytime, anywhere” online bill access.

Instead of waiting for a paper bill in the mail, customers can view their bill while waiting in line at a coffee shop or taking their dog for a walk. Emphasize the convenience factor in your email campaigns to encourage customers to go paperless, including the ability to view and pay their bill from any location.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with convenience

4. Make enrollment easy and quick

One of the biggest barriers to paperless billing adoption is a complicated enrollment process. Everyone is strapped for time in our 24/7 world — that’s why your utility needs to make ebill enrollment as streamlined as possible.

Even if customers are finally ready to make the switch, a long and complicated enrollment process can stop them in their tracks. To encourage customers to go paperless, we recommend creating a one-click enrollment on your website or mobile app. Also, be sure to highlight the ease of enrollment in your promotional campaigns. For example, use language such as “enroll in 30 seconds” or “you’re only one click away from e-Bill convenience.”

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with easy enrollment

5. Educate customers about the environmental impacts of ebilling

Environmental concerns are top of mind for residential and business customers alike. Your ebill promotions should remind customers that going paperless not only has benefits for them, but for the planet as well.

Paperless billing plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions. In fact, turning a tree into paper (17 reams to be exact) releases around 110 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Additionally, paper makes up around 23% of landfill waste. By showcasing the positive impact of ebill on the environment, your utility can go a long way to encourage customers to go paperless.

Keep in mind, not all customers are motivated by the environmental impact of ebill. In email campaigns, eco-friendly messaging should be subtle and mentioned along with other benefits like convenience or easy enrollment.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with environmental message

Break Barriers and Increase Conversions

While it can be a challenge to encourage customers to go paperless, it’s not an impossible task. With the right messaging, your energy utility can help customers replace old habits with new ones.

Get more of your energy utility customers to sign up for paperless billing with a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital.

Paperless billing incentives are a tactical way to increase signups to your energy utility’s eBill or paperless billing program. In addition to engaging customers, incentives drive higher click-through rates (CTR) and conversions for eBill campaigns. 

What are paperless billing incentives?

Paperless billing incentives can vary, ranging from high-value prizes like tickets to a sports game or smaller giveaways for every customer who signs up for eBilling (for example, LED light bulbs and gift cards).

Example of Paperless Billing Incentives ad for sweepstakes

Questline Digital data shows that paperless billing promotional emails with incentives have a 17% higher open rate and 28% higher CTR than messages without incentives. Customers enjoy having the opportunity to earn prizes, especially after learning about the many benefits of paperless billing.

Still, even after identifying the right incentive, it can be daunting to build a campaign strategy that maximizes conversions.

Success starts with a subject line

An incentive-focused paperless billing email begins with an effective subject line that clearly explains the offer. If the giveaway is immediate, let your audience know by using language like “Claim your reward now.”

Follow these subject line best practices for paperless billing incentives:

  • Subject lines that clearly state the incentive reach 13% more of their intended audience compared to subject lines that only imply an offer.
  • Subject lines with “We’ll Pay Your Bill” in the title drive high open rates, but fewer click-throughs.
  • Conversely, subject lines with the word “free” typically do not perform well. This word is often associated with spam.

High-ticket prizes vs. low-cost giveaways

It’s best to test high-ticket and low-cost paperless billing incentives to see what resonates most with your utility’s customers. Consider having a mix of promotions included in your campaign strategy to connect with different customers and vary the giveaways.

Keep in mind that bigger paperless billing incentives do not necessarily mean bigger engagement. While large-dollar-amount prizes drive customer interest in opening promotional emails, that enthusiasm can sometimes be diminished through the contest-entry process.

The “cost” for entering into the drawing is an immediate conversion into paperless billing; this can create an unequal transaction where your customers are asked to give up paper bills for a small chance to win a reward.

Example of Paperless Billing Incentives with Gift Card Contest

In comparison, we’ve found small incentives are often more effective because they have an immediate, guaranteed payoff. According to Questline Digital data, compared to a contest to win one big prize, small incentives for every customer have a 13% higher open rate and 82% higher CTR.

Based on an analysis of the paperless billing incentives campaigns deployed by Questline Digital, we have found:

  • Awarding a $5 gift card to all signups converts better than enter-to-win contests of $1,000 or more.
  • Products like LED light bulbs rank second among the best drivers of click-throughs.
  • Thermostats and smart home device giveaways are also top performers.
Example of Paperless Billing Incentives with LED giveaway

Make incentives easy to earn

Making the process easy to sign up for paperless billing is key to increasing conversions. In fact, one-click opt-ins into paperless billing programs increase conversion rates by 22%.

It should be equally easy to earn paperless billing incentives. Customers will appreciate a simple, one-click process to enroll in paperless billing, but the immediate question following signup is, “When will I get my prize?”

Make sure your utility is prepared to answer this question in detail. Share next steps with customers, including if you need to receive their mailing address for prize delivery, if they need to print a coupon or any other steps needed to redeem their incentive.

Make this process just as simple as enrolling and your customers will wonder why they didn’t make the switch sooner.

Example of Paperless Billing Incentives sweepstakes entry message
Example of Paperless Billing Incentives thank you message

The power of paperless billing incentives

Everyone likes free things. By offering paperless billing incentives to encourage conversions, customers are more likely to embrace the benefits of eBills.

Paperless billing incentive campaigns are also a great way to encourage re-enrollment from customers who may have unenrolled from past eBill programs. Maybe they unenrolled by accident or didn’t quite understand the benefits. Either way, an incentive-based campaign can be a perfect re-introduction.

Example of Paperless Billing Incentives with Amazon Gift Card

Incentives provide a massive return on investment for energy utilities, saving operational costs every month for every paperless customer. That’s what we like to call a win-win.

Drive more paperless billing conversions with a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital.

When it comes to paperless billing, there are many reasons why customers choose to make the switch from paper to electronic bills. According to eMarketer, three in four adults across all generations will switch at least one bill to paperless in the next year. Knowing the right paperless billing benefits to promote — and how to promote them — is essential to creating successful campaigns for your energy utility.

What is paperless billing?

Paperless billing, also known as ebill, is when a customer receives an electronic bill rather than a paper bill in the mail. These paperless bills are typically emailed to customers and available within their online accounts to access and review. Many customers can set up automatic payments through ebilling.

Infographic listing the benefits of paperless billing for utility customers

Benefits of ebilling to customers

Paperless billing is a convenient way for customers to access, pay and store their bills. Furthermore, ebilling allow customers to pay their bills directly online, rather than needing to mail a payment or travel to a customer service center. It also allows customers to have easy access to their billing history without the paper clutter at home.

There are numerous advantages of paperless billing, including:

  • On-the-go convenience
  • Pay anytime, anywhere
  • Saving money on stamps and envelopes
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Security

On-the-go convenience

For energy utility customers, convenience is perhaps the number-one reason to enroll in paperless billing. Instead of waiting for a paper bill in the mail, customers can quickly access their bill from their email inbox. Paperless billing fits into customers’ busy 24/7 schedules and helps reduce stress.

Flexible payment options add to the convenience. Ebill customers have access to numerous payment options, including through a bank account, debit card, credit card, autopay, mobile app and even smart home voice activation. When thinking about their bills, consumers say late payments are a top concern. That’s why energy utilities should promote the benefits of email and text payment reminders in their paperless marketing.

Pay anytime, anywhere

The ability to access your bill from any location is a top benefit of paperless billing. According to Questline Digital’s Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, 68% of residential customers engage with program promotions on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.

A survey of smartphone owners finds 42% pay their monthly bills through a mobile device. In addition, millennials and consumers with a household income between $50,000 and $99,000 are more likely to use mobile bill pay. As this data demonstrates, energy utility customers want the flexibility of viewing and paying their bill on the go.

The COVID-19 pandemic aided in this “pay anytime” value proposition as consumers looked to budget their bills amidst other financial concerns. Instead of emphasizing the on-the-go benefits, highlight the 24/7 convenience of paperless billing. For example, customers can pay their bill in the middle of cooking dinner, doing a home workout or watching Netflix.

Saving money

For business customers in particular, paperless billing has a major impact on operational costs. Compared to residential consumers who receive about 12 bills total each month, small businesses receive about 50 bills on average.

Traditional paper bills require a constant supply of postage and envelopes or time spent logging into numerous sites to make payments. For small and large businesses alike, paperless billing reduces costs and increases productivity. With an overload of paper transactions in everyday business operations, electronic bill statements are one less piece of paper to keep track of each month.  

Reduced carbon footprint

There are numerous environmental reasons to go paperless, the biggest being a reduced carbon footprint. Energy utility customers are increasingly concerned about the environment, particularly younger generations. Research finds 68% of millennials purchased a product with an environmental benefit in the past 12 months.

Paperless billing gives customers an opportunity to help the planet, while also showcasing your energy utility’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact. In fact, 87% of consumers view a company favorably that supports the environment, whether through programs, products or philanthropic efforts.

To reach the eco-conscious consumer, emphasize the sustainable benefits of going paperless, including less paper waste and a reduced carbon footprint. Paper is a major concern, making up 25% of landfill waste, 33% of municipal waste and 50% of business waste. The environmental reasons to go paperless are growing increasingly important to promote.


When it comes to paperless billing benefits, a top priority for many customers is security. How is their information stored? What will it be used for? Will their account be safe? Although digital methods can present their own concerns, the truth is that paper statements are not free of fraud risk. Mail can be intercepted, misplaced or fall into the wrong hands, leaving valuable account information or even payments unprotected.  

Paperless billing, on the other hand, accounts for these concerns by implementing security measures and protocols for customers’ login information. Even if bills or account information is emailed, it will never contain full account information, which gives extra protection if a customer’s email was to be compromised.

It’s important to share how your utility puts security measures in place and the lengths it goes to protect customers’ sensitive data. Customers want transparency, especially when it comes to their personal information.

Fiserv surveyed respondents on the security of payment methods and found that consumers’ confidence in the security of specific digital channels, including financial mobile apps and digital wallets, increased significantly from 2018 to 2019. This highlights a move forward as customers acknowledge the safety of ebilling and grow more comfortable with the technology.

Paperless billing benefits for energy utilities

Paperless billing doesn’t just offer benefits to customers. On the contrary, the effects of ebill are positive for customers and energy utilities alike.

Utilities experience a variety of advantages of paperless billing, including:

  • Decreased call center traffic
  • Environmental impact
  • Reduced postage costs
  • Improved payment speed
  • Boost in customer satisfaction
  • Increased customer engagement

Decreased call center traffic

According to Energy Central, many utilities handle around 1.4 million live calls per customer per year. Typically, these calls are made up of:

  • 30% to 40% payment arrangements
  • 5% to 15% payments
  • 25% to 35% billing

What’s more, statistics show that many of these calls come from the same customers. This means they continue to have the same questions with payment arrangements or billing. With paperless billing, call levels can be dramatically reduced as these customers learn to use self-serve options for their payment and billing needs.

Although call center traffic may never completely diminish, promoting paperless billing benefits to customers in a way that acknowledges the typical help they need — such as how to make a payment or view their bill — will lessen their need to call for help. 

Environmental impact 

Environmental reasons to go paperless don’t solely reside with customers. Many energy utilities have long-term environmental goals they are striving to reach, such as reducing their carbon footprint or increasing energy efficiency usage among customers.

For example, Southern California Edison has a strategy called Pathway 2045 in place where they have specific environmental goals lined up to reach carbon neutrality by 2045, including:

  • 100% of retail sales from carbon-free electricity
  • 26 million EVs purchased and on the road
  • 70% of all buildings using efficient electric space and water heating
  • 50% reduction in natural gas consumption

Many other utilities have similar measurements in place, such as reducing waste within their utility to promote sustainability. Paperless billing is a great program to include in these strategies. One Texas utility calculated that if their entire subscriber base went paperless, they could, on an annual basis:

  • Prevent 26,200 trees from being cut down
  • Avoid the equivalent of 1,700 households’ monthly energy use
  • Save 574,300 swimming pools full of water
  • Cut 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

With 1 million of their customers switching to paperless billing, Southern Company Gas calculated the environmental impact as:

  • 375 fewer tons of paper used
  • 8,980 fewer trees cut down
  • 6.7 million fewer pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere

Reduced operational costs

In addition to reduced paper waste, another paperless billing benefit is simply a decrease in costs for your energy utility. When your utility no longer has to mail paper bills, it also no longer has to buy paper, envelopes, or most importantly, stamps. This is especially important to consider as postage prices continue to rise.

In August, the price of a first-class Forever Stamp went from 55 cents to 58 cents. Although at first glance it appears the increases are minimal, it quickly adds up when the number of customers requiring paper bills each month is taken into consideration.

Plus, paperless billing saves money from any bills lost in the mail or resending bills to customers that have moved. Ebilling alleviates these cost concerns and allows your utility to put that money toward other customer-centric programs.  

Improved payment speed 

Another paperless billing benefit for energy utilities is the improved payment speed and increase in bills paid. The conventional methods of processing paper-based payments are time-consuming, from the time it takes a customer to receive their bill until the payment is received by the utility.

Regardless of industry, studies have found that customers often pay bills later when sent by mail compared to bills sent electronically, making paperless the preferred method of billing in the financial suite of most organizations.

Overall, paperless billing drastically speeds up the revenue cycle. Since customers have access to their bills anytime, anywhere, they can make payments instantly from their smartphone or laptop and are immediately notified when bills are available to view.

Boost in customer satisfaction

Paperless billing means customers have the convenience of viewing their bills and managing their accounts anywhere, anytime. According to a Fiserv household survey, 75% of customers say paperless billing helps them better manage their finances. 

Ebilling also leads to increased awareness of all digital messaging, allowing your utility to get closer to a seamless customer experience. In addition, the option to go paperless tends to improve customer satisfaction. According to Fiserv’s Eighth Annual Consumer Billing Household Survey, an impressive 68% of paperless consumers acknowledge increased satisfaction with their biller when they receive electronic statements.

Specifically, Southern Company Gas found that customers who receive ebills are 21% more satisfied than those who receive paper bills, according to company-conducted surveys. Utilities that promote paperless billing benefits and encourage ebilling adoption can see positive increases in customer satisfaction and J.D. Power ratings as well.

Increased customer engagement

A final paperless billing benefit is an outcome that all utilities hope for: increased customer engagement. While it’s already been noted that paperless billing improves customer satisfaction, ebilling also provides opportunities to increase engagement across multiple channels.

Since most utilities include ebilling within customers’ My Account portals, this is a great way to provide education or encourage engagement with other programs and services your utility offers. For example, when highlighting a customer’s energy use within a bill, link to your energy efficiency tips and resources page.

Do your utility’s customers choose paperless billing? Learn how Questline Digital’s proven solution can help.

For energy utilities, encouraging customers to adopt energy efficient lifestyles is an ongoing challenge. Both residential and business customers benefit from reducing energy, but it can be easier said than done to change long-standing behaviors. However, with the right strategies in place, utilities can make strides in their energy efficiency adoption goals.  

In our latest webinar, “Energy Efficiency Adoption Solutions,” Colleen Bullett (Questline Digital), Laurel Gerdine (Franklin Energy) and Mary Medeiros McEnroe (Silicon Valley Power) discuss the importance of EE adoption and how to promote energy-saving solutions to your customers.

Bullett kicked off the webinar with a round of statistics, including: In 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kWh, an average of about 877 kWh per month.

In addition, Questline Digital’s 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report finds that customer interest in energy efficiency increased significantly throughout the pandemic. In fact, customers engaged with promotional emails from their utilities at an 18% higher open rate and 27% higher click-through rate.

According to Bullett, there are many reasons to convert utility customers to energy efficient lifestyles, notably environmental and economic benefits. EE adoption plays a powerful role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing utility bills, creating jobs and addressing energy equity. With an aggressive commitment to energy efficiency, utilities could help reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 57% by 2050.

“It’s more cost-effective and efficient for energy utilities to encourage customers to change energy patterns instead of spending money on new technologies, updating generators and other costly measures,” Bullett says.

Research finds that 56% of consumers find it “very important” to have an energy efficient home. However, only 9% of those consumers think their home is energy efficient. Moreover, 47% customer say “the money I can save” is a top indicator of whether they will purchase energy efficiency products or not. Environmental concerns drive 44% of customers to invest in energy efficiency.

These are the top reasons why customers are averse to adoption:

  • “The costs are too high”
  • “Unsure about real-world benefits and performance”
  • “Too many barriers to adoption”
  • “Waiting until others adopt first”

To overcome these barriers, Bullett recommends sharing success stories in the form of case studies and content marketing. These solutions address the knowledge gap and help customers to better understand home energy audits, time-of-use (TOU) rate plans and other programs. Energy utilities should use content marketing to encourage customers to change behaviors, such as charging their electric vehicles at night or installing ENERGY STAR appliances. Content marketing is key to showing customers how they can easily implement these changes into their everyday lives.  

With a large base of commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, Medeiros McEnroe shared how Silicon Valley Power promotes energy efficiency programs to this hard-to-reach audience. The municipal electric utility, located in Santa Clara, California, has over 40 large data centers and numerous tech companies in its 18.4-square-mile service area.

Residential customers make up about 85% of the utility’s customer base, but only represent 6% of energy usage. That’s why Silicon Valley Power focuses its energy efficiency efforts on C&I customers. Medeiros McEnroe reinforced the importance of understanding your business customers in order to promote the right energy efficiency technologies.

Energy utilities need to ask the right questions:

  • Are they a local, regional or national company?
  • What do they do?
  • What are their business drivers?
  • What are their pain points?
  • When are their funding cycles?
  • Do they have metrics for decision-making?
  • Who are the energy champions at the organization?

When energy utilities reach out to C&I customers, they need to understand the return on investment for an energy efficiency program or technology. In other words, will this solution help increase productivity and improve the company’s bottom line? Medeiros McEnroe encouraged utilities to think beyond how much a business will save on their electric bill. For example, what are their climate goals? What is the ROI equivalent to increased product sales?

To encourage energy efficiency adoption with C&I customers, Medeiros McEnroe recommends using targeted program promotions with multiple touchpoints, including emails, postcards and two-page fliers. Silicon Valley Power also takes advantage of site visits and training with trade allies. When the utility promoted an energy efficiency incentive program with hotels and motels during the pandemic, site visits and trade ally training were key to achieving high program participation.   

In addition to promoting the energy benefits of a particular solution, it behooves energy utilities to talk about the non-energy benefits as well. Medeiros McEnroe shared an example of an energy efficient deep fryer demonstration at the Food Service Technology Center. The energy efficient deep fryer came to temperature faster, resulting in oil lasting longer than traditional fryers. This was quantified by the amount of French fry orders made per year, the amount of oil saved each year, etc. The non-energy savings were significantly more than the energy savings. Medeiros McEnroe strongly encourages quantifying the non-energy benefits of a solution to customers as a way of speaking to what is most important to them.  

It can be just as challenging to encourage EE adoption among residential customers. Franklin Energy, which serves 500,000 residential customers annually, has experienced success with energy efficiency education and promotions. According to Gerdine, the utility’s commitment to energy efficiency adoption has resulted in a reduction of 1.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2020.

To impact program adoption for residential customers, Gerdine emphasizes promoting convenience and simplicity. “We live in an Amazon world and consumer buying motivations have dramatically changed,” she says. An Accenture study found that 57% of consumers would switch retailers if they did not offer new, fast and flexible delivery options. For energy utilities, this means taking a hard look at their processes and determining what needs to change to meet the expectations of today’s customers.

“If you are not providing an easy way for customers to enroll or participate in an energy efficiency program, adoption will not be successful,” Gerdine notes. “Customers expect a streamlined sign-up process – if it’s too complicated, they will simply avoid it.”

For example, Franklin Energy had been using paper applications for years for its home weatherization program targeting low-income customers. The utility recently implemented an online application capability, mostly for use by program allies (the main channel for participation). The results were immediate with 30% to 50% of weekly applications submitted online.  

Another example is the promotion of a large home energy assessment program. During the pandemic, the utility collected Covid-related information in the sign-up process. While the goal was to protect the health of customers and team members, the program execution created a barrier to sign up that significantly impacted adoption. In fact, the added complexity resulted in a 40% increase in the scheduling page bounce rate. To solve the problem, the Franklin Energy team removed the questions and asked them as part of a follow-up process. With this quick fix, the bounce rate returned to normal levels.

“The main lesson here is to make sure you consider the impact of your actions on the sign up process,” Gerdine says. “Remember the old ‘keep it simple’ rule to drive adoption and participation in programs.”

Partnerships are another huge resource to influence energy efficiency adoption. In the midst of Covid-19, community became a huge channel to provide energy efficiency solutions to low and medium-income customers. In addition, the emergence of new program designs and increasing complex technologies has shined a light on the value of engaging communities. Gerdine recommends that energy utilities work with key stakeholders to drive adoption among residential customers.

“It really takes a village to drive energy efficiency adoption and this will continue and become more important moving forward,” Gerdine says. “We began to use new community channels to reach customers where they are.”

Questline Digital can help your utility increase energy efficiency adoption among residential and business customers.