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Commercial SEM: What do utilities need to be successful?

Created 6/27/2016 by Warren Fish
Updated 6/28/2016 by Veronica Marzilli
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On June 8, 2016, NEEA hosted a workshop with Pacific Northwest utilities and Bonneville Power, to assess opportunities specific to Commercial Strategic Energy Management. Commercial SEM (C-SEM) has been a growing part of utilities’ increasing focus on holistic energy management services, and NEEA is supporting a working group on C-SEM under the umbrella of the Northwest Industrial SEM Collaborative.

C-SEM Workshop participants focused on learning from each other about successful approaches to strategic energy management with commercial customers. Some utilities have a rich history with this kind of program, including Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Energy Trust of Oregon. PSE’s Resource Conservation Manager (RCM) program has paved the way for their new Bellevue Urban Smart business-engagement initiative. Other utilities are just getting started and can build on regional best practices.

The key takeaway from the workshop is that utilities are committed to working together – to regional collaboration for the purposes of learning and establishing consistent approaches to customer engagement, implementation, and savings calculations. It’s clear that there are savings to be acquired – how to do so cost-effectively and consistently is a subject of great interest to many in the region.

Workshop participants discussed different approaches for different sectors: Large institutional building use-types – municipal, universities, corporate campus, and hospital sectors – are seen as a more natural fit for SEM than leased office or retail use types. Sectors with consistent building designs and consumption profiles may enable scalable approaches.

In addition to discussions of regional collaboration and leveraging knowledge gained to date, participants shared important programmatic details, including what have been successful customer engagement strategies:

  • Host feel-good events – parties, awards, frequent get-togethers
  • Commit to high touch between provider and customer – more important than technical tools
  • Build long-term relationships with customers – working with active customers who may be involved in other programs
  • Financial incentives are important
  • Use a cohort approach – cohorts keep customers engaged; ability to interact with other people from their industry and learn from those interactions to get better at their jobs
  • Develop a sales pitch or marketing program that makes C-SEM formal and discrete
  • Package C-SEM with other programs – holistic “suite-of-services” approach
  • Use key account managers to help with recruitment
  • Make it convenient – either close to or at a customer’s location
  • Use peer-to-peer learning via case studies and stories
  • Engage chains & franchises and show what peers and competitors are doing
  • Focus on making the energy champion (or whoever the customer lead is) look good at what they do – help them help you
  • Craft value propositions that will resonate at different levels of the customer’s organization

If you’d like to GET ENGAGED in the Commercial SEM working group please reply below or reach out for me (wfish) at neea.org and we will loop you in.

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