What the Climate Speech means for utility customers and what utilities can do about it

What the Climate Speech means for utility customers and what utilities can do about it

You’ve probably read a lot of coverage about the president’s speech last Tuesday. I want to hone in here on the piece about the carbon tax for utilities, and what that will mean for Americans.

Bottom line: Our utility bills will go up. And most Americans won’t see it coming. Unless utilities take advantage of the opportunity.

Yes, I said, “Opportunity.”

We have many utility clients, and frankly, we think utilities are constantly in a tough spot. They’re trying to balance doing the right thing for the environment with providing 99.99% up-time and keeping costs low.

It’s the kind of scenario that any of us running a business would struggle with. We’d find ourselves saying things like, “Well, there have to be trade-offs.” And you wouldn’t want to trade off your product’s quality or the price you need to be a healthy business.

So the environment gets traded … and it actually doesn’t have to be that way. That’s the opportunity piece of this equation.

(All manufacturers enjoy the use of natural resources without paying the true cost of using them, by the way. Although the president only talked about a carbon tax for utilities, the reality is that could pave the way for a carbon tax for every business. So this next piece applies to you whether you’re a utility or not).

The opportunity is to get in front of it. Be the shepherd. Be an agent of empowerment. Help Americans understand all the opportunities they have to be more energy efficient.

Once they know their bills are about to seriously increase, they will actually pay attention. There’s a ton of low-hanging fruit here. We know from our Energy Pulse study that

  • 30% of Americans haven’t set their water heater or thermostat to a more efficient temperature.
  • 70% who have programmable thermostats haven’t programmed them.
  • 50% don’t unplug chargers and small appliances.

And that’s the little stuff. Serious price increases – and a serious wake-up call for most Americans – might finally get them interested in adding insulation, upgrading their HVACs and having a dashboard tied to their smart meter that shows them how they’re using energy and how they could save it.

Utility folks: Be ready for this. Several months before the price increases go into effect, launch attention-getting ad campaigns about energy efficiency; focus your energy efficiency program efforts on the customers who will be hit the hardest; go door-to-door to see those customers and SHOW THEM how to save energy.

Instead of being the villain here, you’ll be the hero. And a lemon will be turned into lemonade.


Posted on

July 8, 2013

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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