LIFT to Fill Research Gap for Solar Programs Through New Survey
May 29, 2020, Washington, DC – Groundswell, with its partner organizations Elevate Energy, Southface Energy Institute and Clean Energy Works, today released initial research regarding how utilities communicate with low- and moderate-income customers when they deliver energy efficiency services. Surprisingly, even large energy utilities rarely communicate with residential customers regarding energy efficiency – even when these programs successfully save money for the households served, concluded the report: LIFT Customer Experience Benchmarking Analysis.
“Sharing good news should be a welcome communication with your customers,” said report author Vito Greco, Solar Research Director for Elevate Energy. “The lack of customer experience data is surprising and represents a lost opportunity to educate and satisfy customers at every income level.”
Energy efficiency programs that communicated periodically with LMI participants demonstrated high levels of customer satisfaction, according to the analysis. The lack of “customer experience” data did not reflect on whether efficiency programs were financially successful for the utility, but financial outcome metrics often did correlate with measures of overall customer satisfaction and engagement.
“This research illustrates an enormous opportunity for customer-driven innovation in the energy sector, particularly when it comes to how we serve our neighbors who need energy efficiency savings the most,” commented Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “Asking people what they want and need and checking in to make sure you’re delivering a great customer experience seems simple, but it could be a transformative source of innovation.”
“This analysis informs our research plan for increasing access to solar and community solar programs for low-income households,” said Chris Nichols, LIFT program manager at Groundswell. “Rule #1: If you don’t ask, you won’t know. LIFT will design and administer our own customer experience survey for LMI households. The results will help improve service and financial success for both the utility and our low-income neighbors.”
Importantly, LIFT’s benchmarking analysis found that engagement practices that work for non-LMI participants may not work as well for LMI participants in clean energy programs. LIFT is designing specific research tools to capture income variation in clean energy customer responses.
The “Accelerating Low-Income Financing and Transactions for Solar Access Everywhere (LIFT)” project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). LIFT’s research is intended to rapidly accelerate community solar and energy efficiency access for low-income communities through developing optimal program design and pricing for working families in each common regulatory and utility service environment, while making utility sponsors of these programs whole. LIFT’s research will serve both renters and homeowners.
LIFT’s benchmarking analysis sets a foundation from the first year of its three years of research. DOE support will allow Groundswell and its partners to pivot from energy efficiency programs and apply insights to solar programs, developing a Tool Kit of recommendations and practices appropriate for all utility models, in regulated and unregulated state utility markets.
LIFT partners - Elevate Energy, Southface Energy Institute and Clean Energy Works - share the goal of creating innovative, market-based financing and consumer access models for clean energy.
This free report is available here.
About Elevate Energy
Elevate Energy’s mission is to deliver smarter energy use for all. Elevate designs and implements efficiency programs that lower costs, protect the environment, and ensure the benefits of energy efficiency reach those who need them most. A national thought leader in the development of strategies for solar deployment in diverse and low-income communities, Elevate has managed efficiency programs for ComEd, Ameren, Nicor, and Peoples Gas, and administered programming for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Elevate has also facilitated energy planning for states including Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, and renewable energy deployment strategies for the City of Chicago, Detroit, and Gary, Indiana. Elevate’s base includes Chicago and the Midwest.
Groundswell is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that builds community power. Groundswell develops community solar projects and subscriber management programs that connect solar power with economic empowerment, enabling neighbors to work together to SharePower™ and substantial energy savings. Groundswell’s regional base focuses on the MidAtlantic and Southeast, with more than 50MW of solar power projects in development.
For the last 40 years, Southface, a premier clean energy and energy efficiency research, training and service organization, has increased the number of healthy and sustainable homes, workplaces and communities throughout the Southeast. It has certified 50,000 sustainable homes, trained over 5,000 individuals to pursue clean energy and green building jobs, and impacted 200 million square feet of green commercial space and 2 million square feet of residential green real estate in the Southeast and nationally.
About Clean Energy Works
Clean Energy Works connects champions of energy efficiency and renewable energy with resources that accelerate investment in clean energy solutions. A nonprofit organization, Clean Energy Works focuses on business plan development for utilities that are using Pay As You Save (PAYS®) financing to update their investment model for the 21st century.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Solar Energy Technologies Office Award Number DE-0008567. EERE/SETO supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.