2015 Energy Conference Highlights

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Late summer and fall is a busy time for energy professionals as they head out to learn the latest trends, technologies and best practices at conferences across North America.

Brand Cool staff were featured speakers at many of these venues, sharing our program experiences to help others think about ways to make energy more human and drive deeper engagement with customers and partners.

Here are our top impressions from the conferences, along with Brand Cool’s speaking topics. If you’d like to learn more about our sessions, give us a call. We’d be happy to bring this learning to your team.

Utility program managers, solid state lighting manufacturers and lighting designers gathered to explore trends and technology advancements in commercial lighting. Brand Cool was on hand to interview lighting industry stakeholders to understand how the DLC can continue its leadership role in advancing energy efficient commercial lighting and applications. This includes setting standards for advanced lighting control systems, establishing processes for the inclusion of controls on its Qualified Products List (a valuable resource for utilities and state energy efficiency program implementers), and the integration of lighting applications in the Internet of Things (IoT).

This conference presented viewpoints from an overall industry perspective, and agriculture was highlighted for its distinct challenges. Growers are taking on energy efficiency technologies at a much slower rate than other industries, with estimates indicating it’s about 20 years behind. What’s responsible for this lag? Trust. Research shows that growers are less trusting of technology or companies that are trying to pilot new offerings in fields. With their crops and livelihood at stake, the risk is great. Compounding this issue is farmers’ recognition that the rest of the world is moving forward without them. Add this to the variability of weather, and it becomes clear: there’s much more to address with farmers than the savings and non-energy benefits that energy efficiency can offer.

Embedding energy efficiency into organizational cultures was an important topic discussed at AESP. This effort should go beyond making energy management a core value and an accepted key to business success. Companies can create energy management hubs to share tools and best practices, as well as network on a regional level. This can make energy efficiency initiatives more cost effective, extend learning opportunities, and provide visibility into new ways for monitoring and analyzing impacts for more sustainable results. The impact of change fatigue on consumers also was detailed in the context of the utility’s role in helping customers rationalize options.

Sarah Gibson, our Vice President of Client Services, presented “Beyond the Bottom Line: Telling an Energy Efficiency Story without Incentives.” In this session, Sarah explained why energy efficiency programs often have limited success. Instead of focusing on incentives, programs should reflect the factors that can be equally or more important to decision makers. To learn more about our research and findings in this area, read Sarah’s article on this topic.

Although the idea of energy efficiency as a resource is recognized across the U.S. landscape, leaders from all Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations discussed why this concept is still largely on paper—not surprisingly, it’s closely tied to the realities of current funding. Putting more emphasis on energy efficiency from an economics perspective will help us make more progress. So will distinct strategies for addressing poverty areas and those plagued by inequity. Overall, leaders were very optimistic, sharing stories of transformation from new utility business models and ways to measure non-energy benefits, to how stakeholder advisory boards are helping to integrate Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS) and reduce litigation risks. A full retrospective of the conference can be found here.

As a certified B-Corp, Brand Cool and its parent company, Butler/Till, are active in learning how companies around the globe are building sustainable practices, community service, and employee goodwill into their businesses. Brand Cool’s CEO Sue Kochan presented on best practices in “self management and compassionate leadership” to a standing-room only crowd, and taught a class in mindfulness. We know the value this can bring to business first-hand; our agency meetings start with mindfulness exercises to ensure everyone is present and our employees can access their best thinking.

More than 400 attendees from northeastern states convened to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the home performance (HP) industry. Most notable were activities underway that will help scale up HP, including tools that will accelerate energy efficiency. The concept of relating to home owners’ needs on a more personal level—rather than push upgrades, use technical terms, etc.—was a common thread in many presentations. Holly Barrett, our Vice President of Strategy & Insight, presented “Best Practices in Marketing,” providing tips for how programs and businesses can improve lead generation, sales conversion and trade ally support (based on our learnings from marketing HP programs on the East and West coasts).

Rarely is the topic of religion and climate change addressed, even though almost every religion in the world has a stated commitment/responsibility to the planet. In the U.S., we tend to polarize climate change in the context of religion. In a powerful address on the intersections of faith communities and energy, the point was made that the world’s religions are the largest NGOs on the planet. Therefore, “we have to take religious communities seriously, and not assume they don’t accept or understand modern science.”

On a lighter note, another session on energy and human behavior pointed out that “short people need hotter water.” Because water temperatures drop approximately 5 degrees every foot, shorter people experience water that is much cooler than taller people (often, their spouses). Not only is this an issue when showering, but also the ability to break people from leaving the water running too long to get it hot before they enter the shower (a time when they take care of other personal tasks, such as shaving, checking email, etc.). Human behavior facts like these deserve a place in water conservation and consumption-change programs.

Sarah Gibson, our Vice President of Client Services, brought Brand Cool’s expertise to the topic in her presentation, “Understanding Different Models of Behavior.” In her session, Sarah covered tips for making energy more human by exploring six truths to understanding the human relationship with energy. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, you can listen to presentation audio files for a minimal charge here.

Helpful Resources

In our travels and research, we’re always coming across new resources that you might find useful.

  • NRDC’s Third Annual Energy Report: A Tectonic Shift in America’s Energy Landscape, October 2015. How are we doing as a nation in leading a global clean energy transition? This report covers clean energy highlights, how utilities are preparing for new roles, and the impact of the single most important contributor: energy efficiency.
  • The Periodic Table of the Electric Utility Landscape, from Electricity Journal, July 2015. Keeping an eye on the activities of state public utility commissions and their regulatory and policy environments is difficult. Cameron Brooks and the E9 team have created a useful tool that should be used when considering the impacts of initiatives like grid modernization and new investments.
  • Acceptance of Global Warming Rising for Americans of all Religious Beliefs, NSEE, November 2015. This report, pulling from eight years of survey data from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE), traces the relationship between religious affiliation and belief in global warming, and the role that religion and morality play in shaping environmental attitudes. It also draws upon Fall 2015 survey data specifically about Pope Francis to better understand the impact of the Papal call-to-action on acceptance of global warming among Americans, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
  • Human Needs Index, The Salvation Army, 2015. Supporting the needs of low-income populations is a priority for most energy efficiency programs. Because individuals often receive multiple services, understanding these options can provide a gateway for connecting energy efficiency support with other basic needs. The Human Needs Index introduces a new, multidimensional way to measure poverty and its effects across the U.S., aggregating data beyond income levels to substantiate need based on consumption (including energy).

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