Sonja Britland has worn many hats at Taunton Municipal Light Plant (TMLP), from marketing to public communications. In her latest role as Sustainability and Commercial Development Manager, she is passionate about the environment and helping customers take advantage of renewable energy.

“I really hope to make a difference and put my energy toward something tangible to help our customers,” Britland says. “At the end of the day, I feel this role is so meaningful to me. I want to make an impact on our local community and future generations to come.”

Britland joined TMLP in 2004 as a marketing specialist for the internet side of the business. When they needed to cover a soon-to-be-open public communications position for the energy division in 2012, she was asked to fill in. It was supposed to be temporary, but ultimately it turned into a full-time opportunity for Britland, along with managing energy services and key accounts.

This past year, Britland took on the responsibility of managing TMLP’s newly created sustainability department, including hiring employees and crafting a sustainability plan. “It’s so much more than simply buying Renewable Energy Credits,” she explains. “It’s also about building vendor partnerships and finding ways to increase sustainability in the community.”

Headshot of Sonja Britland for Energy Spotlight interview

Throughout her tenure, Britland has been dedicated to increasing customer participation in renewable energy. One example is the Go Green 100% program, which she helped communicate to the public. This voluntary program gives customers a choice to have their electricity come from 100% renewable energy sources.

“We have customers who want their energy to come from renewable sources,” Britland explains. “But we live in an area with quite a few multi-dwelling units, and some customers are unable to take advantage of solar power. This is a way that we could make it economical for those that may have barriers to entry.”

For Britland, the biggest challenge for TMLP is the balance of providing competitive rates and reliable service, while also being an environmental steward. Some customers want their energy to come from 100% renewable energy sources, and others only care about energy costs. That’s why, she notes, it’s important to hear ongoing feedback from customers to develop new and equitable programs.

“Everything we do revolves around our mission to provide reliable, competitively priced services in an environmentally sensitive manner,” Britland says. “When you think about it, that’s a three-legged stool: If one of those pieces disengages, the stool won’t stand on its own. That mentality is what guides us.”

If she wasn’t creating sustainability goals for TMLP, you’d find Britland doing special effects makeup for horror movies. In her early 20s, she created makeup looks for various Fangoria Magazine events. Nowadays, you’ll find Britland in the great outdoors, whether hiking, kayaking or swimming. She also loves music and spending time with her friends, husband and 11-year-old son.

Questline Digital connected with Britland to get her thoughts on changes in the utility industry and what inspires her on a daily basis.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

With a background in business and marketing in the private sector, I joined the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant (TMLP) in 2004 as a Marketing Specialist for the Internet Services Group. My primary role was to work with our commercial customers interested in bringing fiber optic internet access solutions to their facilities.

What has changed the most about your job working in the utility industry over the course of your career?
The most significant change was transitioning from general utility operations to a more strategic approach to decarbonization and sustainability, while balancing our rates and reliability to our customers. As a public power provider governed by our elected commissioners, our customers have an active voice in TMLP.

What excites you the most about the energy utility space?

Emerging technologies and tools being introduced to aid in decarbonization and electrification initiatives. It’s exciting to see what can help us achieve our federal, state and utility-provider goals to mitigate climate change.

What campaign or initiative are you most proud of?

Go Green 100% is a voluntary program that allows our customers’ electricity to come from 100% renewable fuel sources. Go Green 100% accomplishes this through the purchase of Massachusetts Class 1 Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of and why (inside or outside the energy industry)?

The Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” television commercials. They were so outlandish, but also creative. I always looked forward to the next installment. A close runner-up is Dr. Pepper’s Lil’ Sweet commercials because they make me laugh and I’m a HUGE Prince fan!

What is the hardest part of working in the energy industry today?

The hardest part of working in the energy industry is the balance of providing reliable service with low rates, while also working toward decarbonization.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working in the utility industry, I would be…

Creating special effects for horror movies.

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years?

I believe we will come up with new technologies that will enable us to reduce our carbon footprint to help stall climate change.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility industry?

It’s amazing how quickly things can change in this industry. Always keep your mind open to new ideas and technologies, and how they can help our customers and our environment.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.

Content marketing is a key strategy to connect with your energy utility’s customers. In this webinar, Kurt Hansen, Questline Digital AVP of products and partnerships, focuses on how to use content marketing to educate customers about solar power and electric vehicles. He also demonstrates how to use customer segmentation to reach specific audiences.

Content marketing shines bright for solar

More customers are showing interest in solar technology. They want to know what to do with solar energy, if it would work for them and how your energy utility is going to be part of the relationship as they begin their solar journey. 

Content marketing allows your energy utility to be proactive and act as a trusted solar resource to customers. Hansen notes that developing a content marketing strategy is truly that — strategic. It is not a one-off email or simple blog post. This strategy needs to have a breadth of content to support any messages being pushed out to customers.

Your energy utility should work with industry partners to find out what your pain points are and where you specifically need help from a content journey perspective. Content marketing is about creating trust and familiarity over the long run between your energy utility and your customers. “It’s building a relationship,” Hansen says.

When sharing content, make sure it is interactive and engage, such as with quizzes, videos or slideshows. These content assets build a stronger and more memorable digital relationship with customers.

Another aspect of a content marketing strategy is a using on that your energy utility should also focus on? Creating an omnichannel campaign will help your energy utility reach customers through email, social media or blog posts.

The solar power customer journey

“For U.S. consumers, the primary motivators for going solar are saving energy and reducing environmental impact,” Hansen notes. Focus on these key points throughout the solar power customer journey to meet your customers where their interests are. Also, consider segmenting your messages to target customers based on where they are in their solar journey or where they live. By combining your segmentation strategy and content strategy, your energy utility can see higher levels of customer engagement.

While a customer may deal with solar energy contractors, installers or other outside vendors, your energy utility ultimately holds the long-term relationship with that customer. If they are unhappy, your energy utility will be getting the phone call.

Be proactive and stay in front of potential customer concerns. For example, installing rooftop solar may not be the best option for every customer that’s interested in renewable energy — you want them to learn that before it’s too late. “Your goal isn’t to get everyone to install it, it’s to get the right people to install solar,” Hansen says. The key is for your energy utility to be a resource that customers will turn to for help in the future.

Content marketing paves the way for electric vehicles

Similar to solar power, more consumers are becoming interested in electric vehicles and are looking to their energy utilities for help and advice. Typically, this conversation is led by the auto industry. However, this is a major opportunity to be an EV resource for your customers.

Your energy utility needs insights on what customers are interested in EVs as well as their motivation for going electric. By sharing a fun EV quiz with your customers, you can develop a segmentation strategy based on their answers. This will help your utility understand how to target specific audiences with different EV messages. Your customers will also better understand the role of their energy utility in the decision-making process. 

Based on research conducted by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, Questline Digital developed content to reach four customer segments interested in electric vehicles:

  1. Green Champions
  2. Savings Seekers
  3. Technology Cautious
  4. Movers & Shakers

Understanding these segments will help your energy utility align your content strategy to their interests and questions over the course of their buying journey. Keep in mind, this is not something that is achieved with a single video or email.

By creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy that supports your solar and electric vehicles program goals, your energy utility will naturally become a trusted resource for customers. Instead of pushing a hard sales message, sharing educational content that answers their questions will build a strong relationship and increase customer satisfaction.

Learn more about Questline Digital’s content marketing solutions for your Solar Energy programs.

With growing interest in renewable energy, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to install solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. In the United States, solar PV installations have increased to more than 2 million, and this number is expected to double by 2023. With demand greater than ever before, energy utility customers are looking to their energy utility for guidance as they navigate the steps along the solar energy journey.

Solar customers want to save money and the environment

Today’s consumers are more concerned about the environment than ever before. In fact, the primary motivators for going solar are saving energy and reducing environmental impact.Consumers see adding solar PVs to their homes as something they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. In fact, a solar PV is installed every 4 minutes in the U.S.

Despite this rapid growth, some consumers are still hesitant about adding solar to their homes or businesses. The top barriers for U.S. consumers considering solar include financial reasons and a lack of trusted, credible information. The decision to add solar is an important one and requires a major investment. However, there is not much information available other than from solar vendors. According to a survey conducted by the Distributed Energy Financial Group, 75% percent of U.S. consumers wish they had more reliable information before adding solar.

To drive solar PV adoption and increase customer satisfaction, energy utilities can guide their customers along the six phases of the solar journey.

Awareness: Energy utility customers are looking for educational resources on solar technology. Your information should educate customers on the basics of solar energy, such as how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, key energy and cost-saving benefits and common misconceptions (for example, solar energy only works in sunny climates).

Discovery: During the research phase, customers want to know if solar energy is right for their home or business. Your energy utility should provide resources on the financial impact of a solar investment, along with how much they can expect to save on their energy bill. To level-set customer expectations, it also makes sense to provide a clear understanding of the role your energy utility plays in the solar journey.

Contracting: Solar installation is a major job. That’s why it’s imperative your customers find the right solar vendor for their installation. Vendors should be experienced and hold the right certifications, insurance and licenses based on state requirements. Your customers are seeking advice on how to find a qualified contractor and how to create a realistic budget. 

Installation: The installation process is complex and starts well before the solar panels are added to the roof. In some cases, customers may need to make upgrades to their home or business before installation can begin. Your energy utility can prepare customers for this lengthy process as well as answer common questions. For example, what happens during installation, how long a typical installation takes and how much roof space is required for solar panels.

Billing: The solar journey doesn’t stop once installation is complete. Your customers want to know how to make the most of their solar PV system. Your energy utility has the opportunity to educate customers on net metering and provide understanding of solar energy credits and charges on their monthly bill.   

Maintenance: Solar panel maintenance is key to efficient energy production. Customers will need to conduct periodic cleaning to ensure dirt and debris don’t obstruct the sun’s rays. Customers should also have a good warranty to keep energy production at 85% or higher for the lifetime of the solar panel. Your customers will likely reach out to your energy utility with their maintenance questions, so be sure to have answers ready for them.  

Your customers are interested in solar. Is your energy utility prepared to lead them to success? With the right resources, you can help establish reasonable expectations and increase customer satisfaction throughout the solar journey.

Do your customers have questions about solar energy? Give the right answers with Questline Digital’s content collection.