Pennsylvania Power & Light Electric Utilities


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Challenge

The PPL Sustainability Report of 2009 states:

A major issue facing communities and consumers in the current economy is rising energy prices. Customers of PPL Electric Utilities have been shielded from those increases by a rate cap on generation charges that has been in effect since the late 1990s. Those price controls expire Dec. 31, 2009… The increase will be particularly hard on customers with limited incomes. PPL Electric Utilities is concerned about the ability of those customers to pay higher prices.

PPL Electric Utilities wanted to develop a community-based program to increase their energy conservation efforts and educate customers to be “aware of how and when they use energy, and point out ways to save.” The goal was to ease the transition of rate increases by providing the local network of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) with the tools to help low income customers lower their utility bills.

Compounding their concerns regarding the rate increase, PPL Electric Utilities is also required by Pennsylvania state law to reduce electric use by 3 percent and peak demand by 4.5 percent by May 31st of 2013. They plan to achieve this goal by implementing multiple product install and educational energy efficiency programs throughout their service territory in late 2009 and early 2010.

To launch the community-based program with the help of local CAAs, PPL Electric Utilities implemented the customizable Easy Savings Program by Resource Action Programs (RAP). The built in tracking and reporting methods of the Easy Savings Program would allow the program managers to easily provide PPL Electric Utilities with the reporting and tracking data needed to demonstrate compliance with the state conservation efforts.

 

Solution

PPL Electric Utilities found the Easy Savings Program to be a simple turnkey service giving them the flexibility, results and data feedback they were looking for. RAP was able to customize the Easy Savings Program to capitalize on the ability of the local CAAs to pre-qualify low income customers and distribute the program to target PPL Electric Utilities customers.

RAP and PPL Electric Utilities developed an “Easy Savings Kit” with measures and educational materials suited to the specific needs of the local customers. The kit included easy to install measures, a Quick Start Guide with educational information and a Savings Survey for the customer to fill out and return after completing the program.

RAP developed a grass roots marketing plan to launch the PPL Electric Utilities program through the CAAs using posters throughout their offices and community centers, employee training sessions, advertising on the individual CAA web sites, family friendly workshops and word of mouth.

The program was incorporated into the E-PowerWise branding already used throughout PPL Electric Utilities marketing to relate the program to a familiar face. Brochures with inset application forms were used by the CAAs to collect preliminary data about the customer and pre-qualify them for the program. Once the brochure was completed with assistance from an agency representative, they received a kit right then and there. Customers were highly encouraged to go home and implement the money saving program immediately.

RAP developed a grass roots marketing plan to launch the PPL Electric Utilities program through the CAAs using posters throughout their offices and community centers, employee training sessions, advertising on the individual CAA web sites, family friendly workshops and word of mouth.

The educational materials related the changes they would implement in the home to their potential monetary benefit. The Easy Savings Kit offered savings up to $400 per year by installing the different measures provided in the kit. This empowered the customer to make their own choices and choose the modifications that were most comfortable and convenient for them.

After implementing the program at home customers were then incentivized to complete and return the Savings Survey for a chance to win $100 in a monthly drawing. All shipping and postage was included for convenience of the customer.

 

Result

Distributing the kits through the CAAs took longer than other methods RAP typically uses, mainly because of contract agreements with the CAAs. RAP often utilizes direct mail methods for fast and efficient distribution to target utility customers. However, RAP did reach their goal in fulfilling the funding for the program within the contract time line. The CAAs enrolled 1,946 PPL Electric Utilities customers in the program.

Data was collected from the customers at two different times throughout the program. An initial income qualification and home audit survey was conducted at the agency before the customer received the kit. Examples of these questions are illustrated on the right. This preliminary qualification and home audit data is important because it provides a demographic profile of the home, qualifies the customer for the program and is also used for installation calculations and reporting.

In conclusion there were many significant factors that led to the success of this program. The personal one-on-one setting and the customers’ ability to immediately receive the kits after a brief initial consultation were key contributing factors.

Upon completion of the program the customer was then asked to complete the Savings Survey asking them to provide information about the program and the measures they installed. Of the participants, 22% returned the Savings Survey.

The grass roots approach and prize drawing proved successful in incentivizing participants to provide the results needed for reporting.

In conclusion there were many significant factors that led to the success of this program. The personal one-on-one setting and the customers’ ability to immediately receive the kits after a brief initial consultation were key contributing factors.

The incentive was powerful enough to collect the data needed for reporting and the survey responses reflected positive install rates of the measures. 85% of participants indicated they learned a lot from the program, 14% learned a little and only 0.5% indicated they learned nothing.

Although the program was a success for PPL Electric Utilities and RAP, in reviewing the process there were definite challenges along the way. The application process was reported to be difficult for the CAAs to complete as customers walking through the door would not typically know their PPL Electric Utilities account number, which was required. As a result, the application was often not completed until after the customer’s next visit to the CAA when they could return with their account number. This problem could be solved by advertising that an account number was needed to participate so the customer could be prepared with their account number or allowing the CAAs a secure digital method to search for one’s account number by name and address.

Another challenge was relying on the CAAs to complete the application with the customer, distribute the kits, record the number on each kit, and hold customer workshops. CAAs typically implement numerous community programs and are extremely busy. RAP did provide a online tutorial for the CAAs with the option to call in for a question/answer period, but many were occupied and not able to fit it into their busy schedule. An online tutorial that is available at any time could increase the quality and success of the training effort.

PPL Electric Utilities is proud to call Resource Action Programs a partner in the creation and delivery of this E-PowerWise Program. Resource Action Programs is a leader in understanding the needs of customers in this particular segment and we depend on their years of experience and effective management in delivering the E-PowerWise Program. Sharon Fraser, Customer Program Specialist, PPL Electric Utilities