National Grid and Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) are among several utilities that will be sending customers revamped Home Energy Reports (HER) this summer so that they can understand their energy journey better. The dynamic new reports, created by Oracle Utilities Opower, are expected to help millions save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
Using bold designs, new insights, and applied behavioral science, the new personalized reports aim to help utilities reach more customers, increasing their satisfaction and savings. Greater customer engagement is also expected to accelerate the adoption of energy-saving programs, such as efficient home upgrades and use of smart devices. Customers will also be coached to maximize the impact of emerging technologies, such as residential solar and electric vehicle (EV) charging.
"National Grid's mission is to provide clean energy to support our world long into the future," said Thomas Baron, senior program manager at National Grid. "Together with Opower, we have continued to innovate and refine how we engage our customers and bring them along this critical journey. Personalized videos make it fun and easy for customers to make smart energy choices."
"For more than 10 years, Opower has been instrumental in engaging our customers through a range of behavioral techniques and communications channels," said Amanda Janaskie, manager, energy efficient programs, BG&E. "We've been an early adopter of many Opower innovations, so it was natural to be one of the first to deploy these new reports. They will be instrumental in delivering on our commitment to provide customers with personalized experiences that help save energy and money."
Backed by advancements in behavioral science, artificial intelligence (AI), and appliance-level disaggregation, the new Opower reports provide personalized insights for every type of customer through:
- Ever-evolving experiences: Dynamic and changing layouts are designed to catch and maintain customer attention, including those who have been receiving the same reports for years. This includes being able to size and strategically place certain insights and icons for maximum exposure and action. With better use of color and visual appeal, the reports provide a poster-like format that the entire household can understand and use to make smarter energy choices.
- Unique energy journeys: The reports enable utilities to tailor outreach to connect with a diverse audience and autonomously optimize the experience for each customer by the channel and content they receive. For instance, when Opower detects an EV charging in the home, the customer is sent recommendations on the best times to charge. Variable-rate customers see peak pricing insights. Limited income customers receive low and no-cost recommendations. The adaptability of the platform allows utilities to use paper reports to engage hard-to-reach customers and lead them to sustained engagement through digital channels over time. By delivering the right energy insight and recommendation through the right channel, the reports help utilities deliver more customer value, influence buying behavior, and increase intended results.
- Agility to experiment: The flexible nature of the new reports make it a large-scale laboratory for testing and measuring new behavioral techniques and consumer engagement tactics. New Opower platform capabilities enable faster, easier, more cost-effective pilots that extend beyond print and email reports. For example, the Opower X team created a first-of-its-kind video energy report pilot with National Grid. Customers received personalized, animated insights on their usage and advice on how to save and cut costs. The project yielded 12 times the average click-through rates than standard digital reports.
- Behavioral science techniques: While the neighbor comparison feature in the reports has been central to getting people to act, sustaining engagement over time demands varying approaches. The new generation of report continues to innovate with behavioral techniques to get customers to take that next step or leap, including offering:
- Efficiency Zones – A new take on normative comparisons that compares a customer's energy use to a target zone, rather than to similar efficient homes.
- Energy Use Benchmarks – Indicates a customer's relative level of efficiency in a simple way at the top of the report.
- Moments of Pride – Congratulates customers for taking action, motivating them to be even more energy efficient.
"Our ability to make every report a new experience for all types of customers not only delivers industry-leading results, but it also creates a testbed for trying new behavioral techniques and engagement strategies," said Scott Neuman, GVP of Oracle Utilities Opower. "Our reimagined HER is a major leap forward that allows utilities to execute successful programs and help build our clean energy future right now."
"FirstEnergy serves multiple states, all with different customer needs, efficiency goals, and regulatory structures, so it's important that we design and scale programs to achieve those many goals," said Nicole Williams, manager, energy efficiency, residential programs, FirstEnergy. "The new Opower Home Energy Reports — with their highly individualized insights, flexible design, and continuous learning model — will help engage customers and deliver all the results we need throughout our service territories."
Opower has sent nearly a billion reports on behalf of its utility clients since it pioneered the HER in 2007. According to the company, collectively, these reports have resulted in utility customers saving more than 25 TWh of energy, enough to power all the households in Dallas, Texas, for 3.5 years or stream 125 billion videos.