We are more powerful together

by Nov 12, 2015

This week I had the absolute pleasure of participating in a unique and fascinating event put on by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) called Residential Energy+.

The premise behind the event was essentially, “Look, making our existing housing stock more energy efficient not only does wonderful things for the folks inside the homes, it can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which is RMI’s focus).

There are many disparate players trying to move the market in the right direction … what if we get them all in a room for a day and a half and see if we can work collectively to make it happen?”

(I’m sure RMI had a more eloquent way of describing the event … that’s my summary.)

From a process standpoint, I was amazed. The RMI team managed to focus about 55 handpicked, opinionated professionals to quickly co-create eight initiatives to solve the key challenges associated with moving people to make their homes more energy efficient (all of which you’ve heard me talk about before):

  • Americans don’t even realize they have an efficiency problem in their homes.
  • If they do, they don’t know who to call.
  • If they figure out who to call, they could get good advice, bad advice (the contractor talks them out of the more efficient option) or specific trade advice (the window guys push windows, even if insulation and air sealing are what’s really needed).
  • No matter what advice they get, it’s likely to cost more than they thought, and it will be hard to see the value.
  • If they manage to see the value, it’s still expensive, and it’s hard to find lenders who do energy efficiency financing.
  • Once they get the work done, it’s hard to know whether the right things were done at the best price for the maximum benefit. So they’re left having spent a ton of money and wondering whether or not they got screwed.

The folks in the room represented lending institutions, contractors, appraisers and realtors, energy-efficient products/systems, energy efficiency program implementers, retailers and online information sites, software/technology startups and marketing (Shelton Group), and PR (Edelman). I volunteered to get the ball rolling on a national marketing effort, and I’ll keep you posted on where we head with that. I’ll also keep you posted as RMI reports out on the other seven initiatives. I’m including some infographics from RMI below that I think do an excellent job of summarizing the challenges with making energy efficiency “the new normal.” I also heard three notions I hadn’t thought about before that I wanted to share here … maybe these will help us all re-think how we market and communicate energy efficiency to mainstream Americans:

  • Energy efficiency retrofits are currently sold as a service. And when you buy a service you give a lot of direction/opinion to the service provider, whether you know anything about how to actually accomplish your end goal or not. When you buy a product, you don’t tell the product manufacturer how to make the product … it’s just on the shelf ready to go and you either buy it as is or you don’t buy it. If product manufacturers want to stay in business, they figure out how to make products you want to buy. So what if energy efficiency retrofits were sold as a product … turnkey, complete, baked, ready to buy “off the shelf?”
  • There are many examples of luxury brands who’ve figured out how to sell to the masses. Energy efficiency retrofits are expensive and often seen as a luxury. What can we learn from those luxury brands who’ve managed to motivate mainstream consumers to purchase something that previously seemed out of reach?
  • Consumers have a lot of trust in technology. Is there a way to apply that halo of trust to energy and energy efficiency? Especially with the onset of the Smart Home?

Enjoy the infographics … and let me know what you think.

Infographics from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Residential Energy+ initiative.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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