We’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

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I’ve had quite the relationship with my energy company. When I moved to New York, we fell in love. I would always pay attention to her needs – buying “green” energy when she installed wind turbines and reading my bill every month to compare usage to the previous month and 12 months prior, and she rewarded me for my efforts with a bill that required less and less every month.

But over the past four years I’ve started to settle down, and I’ve started to take my dear energy company for granted, and I feel like she’s beginning to take me for granted as well. I still keep my consumption low and pay on time to keep us both happy, but she’s stopped expanding into wind and solar technologies and now the spark is gone (pun intended). Our underlying relationship hasn’t changed – she still uses the same fundamental business model and I still only see my electricity usage once a month when the bill comes. To say the least, neither of us are doing anything new and the relationship has grown stale.

Fortunately for me, there are a few companies implementing ways to prolong the feeling of being green. Duke Energy has increased its push for energy efficiency by offering all customers discounts on energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. NexAmp, EnerNOC and a host of others enable energy monitoring, demand response and energy procurement strategies for industrial clients and some households. Even better, Yello Strom (German) and Greenbox allow consumers to monitor their real-time energy usage via an online interface and identify ways to reduce energy costs. As consumers, these initiatives give us the power to know our footprint and use our knowledge to reduce it, but sharing information only takes us so far.

Looking at other industries, RecycleBank has successfully increased individual recycling by providing tools to both track and reward recycling with coupons – the more you recycle the more coupons you get! This isn’t radically new technology, but it’s a different way to engage the customer through the business model itself.  After all, we can make a difference with today’s technology (~35% below 1990 levels according to McKinsey).

I am an educated purchaser of electricity, and perhaps, if the energy industry looked at new business models in the clean technology industry we’d find better mechanisms to implement existing technologies to effectively reducing our impact and bringin’ back that lovin’ feelin’.

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2 Comments

  1. out here in my part of northern california, pg&e is trying to get customers to sign up for what they call smart ac which allows them to hook up a centrally controlled device that can stop your AC from running during “peak” periods. My understanding of the intent is to allow them to in a way, perform controlled load shedding to manage the grid. It’s not only free, they will pay a customer $25.00 to install it AND you will end up with a lower bill with hardly even noticing the difference.

    And, as with all relationships, sometimes you have to make the effort to ask what you can do to make things better. Check out your utility provider’s website. They often have much to offer.

    chad

  2. Here’s a great article in last week’s NYT about a program that actually compares residential usage to some neighbors in general, and energy-efficient neighbors in particular. They used a simple series of smiley – frowny faces, but had to drop the (very effective) frowny faces ’cause it hurt people’s feelings :-(

    NYT article – Utilities Turn Their Customers Green With Envy

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