Designing Small Business Energy Efficiency Programs That Work

Avista’s Helpful Approach is Working to Make Small Businesses More Energy Efficient

Seattle PI, May 12, 2016. Image credit: monicore

Entrepreneurs are busy people. Small businesses typically don’t have a dedicated energy manager or facility manager, so the task of reducing the energy spend falls to the owner. That makes it hard for utilities to reach into small businesses and capture large amounts of potential energy savings.

Avista Corp. launched an energy efficiency program that attempts to get past that barrier. So far, it’s working. In its first nine months, Spokane-based Avista reports having installed nearly 12,000 energy efficiency measures and captured energy savings of more than 900,000 kWh. Even more important is the high level of customer engagement and overall satisfaction with the program.

To make the small business energy efficiency program work for busy business owners, Avista decided that it needs to act like the energy manager for each small business. Research has continued to show that customers trust energy advice from their utility more than most other sources.

The program is offered in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho, an area of about 30,000 square miles, with about 20,000 small businesses in urban and rural communities.

A small business is loosely defined as using less than 200,000 kWh of electricity per year, but most are much smaller energy users.

The Avista program is designed to make energy efficiency as simple as possible for business owners. That means simplifying decision-making, minimizing disruption, and making it easy for owners to take the next step.

Avista field representatives visit small businesses in person. The reps, who are actually employees of a third-party implementer, do a brief walk-through energy assessment, then they install energy saving devices and equipment in the same visit.

The energy efficient products include light bulbs, cooling misers and smart power strips. The assessment, products, and installation are all free.

In the course of the assessment, reps ask if the customer would like a follow-up from Avista, and about 30% opt into that.

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