The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused many unprecedented changes. Businesses have shut their doors and people are staying home, resulting in higher residential energy bills. And for those who have lost their jobs, this can be even more stressful. For utilities, energy efficiency (EE) programs are a cost-effective way of reducing energy use, but also an important part of program goals and regulatory requirements–something that can’t be ignored, even in a pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic it’s difficult for contractors to enter homes for audits and complete traditional energy efficiency projects like weatherization. EE in the time of social distancing requires a more creative and even virtual approach. Here are ideas that we’ve gathered from our utility clients.
Conduct virtual in-home energy efficiency audits
Utilities such as Eversource are piloting contractor audits by phone. In these free energy assessments, contractors interview customers, asking the same set of questions as they would in-person. Customers can show contractors their home via video or send photos to help contractors assess their homes.
Send EE kits to homes
Either as part of a virtual in-home audit or as a standalone program, utilities are shipping customers savings measures to self-install. These kits might include LED light bulbs, smart power strips, faucet aerators, and/or programmable/smart thermostats. Many utilities are even making these free–increasing the incentive for a customer to request one.
Ask customers to sign up for future EE work
As customers spend more time in their homes, they are likely thinking of ways they can improve their homes. It’s important to remember that the current situation is temporary and it will be safe for contractors to continue working in homes again. One way to ensure that contractors have work to come back to is to create a backlog of projects for them! Mass Save® is offering an enhanced 100% incentive on future installation work–making it worth the wait!
Direct customers to the Marketplace for energy-saving products and services
Digital channels, like Marketplaces, are more important than ever right now for customers. As customers spend more time online, Marketplaces can be a resource and a one-stop shop for all energy-related products and services for right now and for the future. For example, as customers get used to more devices being on in their home, they may need additional outlets and a quick online search can direct them to advanced power strips that help them control plug load.
Encourage customers to change their behavior
Customers who aren’t used to staying at home may need a little assistance on adapting their energy behavior to their new routine, especially when the weather gets warmer and they turn on their air conditioners. Behavioral tips like when to turn up the thermostat and to what degree can have an even bigger impact on energy bills while everyone is at home. And utilities can encourage enrollment in demand response programs to make it even easier for customers while also helping utilities makeup for changes in their Commercial and Industrial demand response programs.
Changing (Low-to-Middle Income) LMI categories
Many customers have recent changes in employment status and salary, making them more financially vulnerable right now. Regulators, utilities, and implementers are exploring options to better serve these customers such as energy efficiency incentives through existing rebate and marketplace programs. Most importantly, they are enabling more customers to qualify for these incentives by taking into account recent changes in income or employment status. Utilities can utilize existing engagement channels such as Home Energy Reports, engagement portals, and more, to increase awareness of these offers and other programs that can help hard-hit customers manage their bills.
It’s a challenging time for those navigating energy efficiency in the novel coronavirus pandemic. Utilities have several tools to creatively help their customers be more energy efficient right now, plan for the future, and help support the industry.