Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company, is teaming up with smart meter and consumer engagement vendor Aclara to offer a novel approach to getting consumers to reduce energy usage. Called the Home Energy Plan, the service will help utility clients drive longer-lasting consumer engagement with in-home visits that leverage the power of comprehensive energy-use data.
Essentially, these are in-home energy audits on steroids. Here’s how it works:
- Before an auditor visits a home, Ecova and Aclara pull the consumer’s energy usage data from utility records
- From this data the two vendors use “proprietary algorithms” to create a detailed energy-use profile called My Energy Insights that highlights the home’s energy use for the past year, compares energy consumption with neighbors, and shows the largest energy end uses
- Armed with this data via mobile devices, the auditor discusses details of the energy profile with the consumer, installs appropriate products such as efficient light bulbs, and performs an on-site assessment to explain the potential savings from the installed products
- The auditor also gathers the consumer’s contact information as a means of opening up communications channels such as email and the utility’s web portal
- Later, Ecova crunches the data gathered before and during the visit to make follow-up recommendations for efficiency programs
- Ecova can also take data from the in-home audit and upload it to Aclara’s online tools, leveraging real data to ensure greater accuracy and improve the value of online services
This type of audit is not without precedent. Previously, Ecova formed a joint venture that enabled DTE Energy in Detroit to help residents in lower- and middle-income neighborhoods save energy and money. More than 100 full-time employees were hired locally to conduct audits and install basic energy efficiency products. In the first eight months of the program, 16,513 DTE customers were served, and they achieved an accumulated savings of 45,337 megawatt-hours of electricity and 177,862,000 cubic feet of natural gas. People who took part “were thrilled,” according to Andy Zetlan, vice president of product management for Aclara, as they were able to save money and conserve energy.
Other companies, including Opower, Tendril and EcoFactor, provide energy audits as well. Home Energy Plan is unique in providing workers who make in-home visits armed with data and tools that provide meaningful face-to-face customer engagement, which helps change energy consumption behavior.
Clearly, with the right mix of manpower, data and engagement focus, people will change their energy consumption habits. But will this have a material effect in the long run? Can it scale across millions of utility consumers nationwide? Perhaps, but I have some doubts. This amped-up in-home audit has potential, but for the majority of consumers in North America a few efficient light bulbs or a water-saving showerhead won’t mean much. It will take something bigger – like a big spike in energy prices – to get many of them to take serious action.
Tags: Energy Conservation, Energy Management, Smart Buildings Practice, Smart Energy Home
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