Will New Retail Concept Push Efficiency Into the Limelight?

Minneapolis electronics retailer Best Buy announced last month it is launching a new Home Energy Management Concept. In addition to an “online learning center,” stores in select cities (Chicago, Houston, San Carlos, Calif.) will have an “in-store experience,” complete with demonstration vignettes for a touch and feel experience with home energy management, home control, and home assurance technologies.

As part of the in-store program, Best Buy is partnering with local utilities in each of the cities to promote and grow the program.

The company also will launch an online resource, with information about home energy management solutions and services, including product demonstration videos, an energy self-assessment tool, self-guided product and solution selection tools and an ENERGY STAR® rebate finder.

While the “in-store” concept may not provide an immediate impact for Xcel Energy customers (unless you find yourself visiting one of the cities above), this pilot most certainly will increase exposure to new and exciting energy-saving technologies and resources.

And with the support of a major retailer and willing utility partners, there likely will be an even greater appetite for new and more powerful energy efficiency technologies. Moreover, as the in-store pilot (hopefully) grows beyond these three stores, buzz surrounding energy management will surely increase.

Not so fast you say? Yes, we’ve heard it before – energy efficiency isn’t ready for the social media limelight (perhaps OPower knows something we don’t)? But buzz within the home energy retail category continues to grow, particularly with the launch of products like Nest earlier this year.

Clearly there is an appetite for saving money and energy – more than 356,000 of our Minnesota customers participated in at least one of our residential energy efficiency rebate programs in 2010. And while that sounds like a significant number, it represents less than 30 percent of our customers in Minnesota. There still is work to be done.

Hopefully, the added exposure of this pilot will only increase acceptance of – and hopefully participation in – energy efficiency practices. And for me, that’s a win for all.

So what do you think? Will the Home Energy Management Concept pilot survive?

Article by Tim Laughlin, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

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