Can Opower’s Energy Efficiency Program Fill the CFL Gap?

Nov. 27, 2013
Utilities have an energy efficiency challenge on their hands, and Opower’s program can help them solve it, the company says. A new report shows Opower’s program’s potential.

Utilities have an energy efficiency challenge on their hands, and Opower says it can help them solve it.

Here’s the problem: Utilities, many of which are required to meet energy efficiency targets, are finding it harder and harder to meet those targets, especially now that they generally don’t get credit for handing out compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). That’s because people these days go out and buy CFLs without needing incentives. They understand the energy efficient bulbs will pay off.

“It’s harder to meet increasing efficiency targets with fewer resources,” says Nathan Srinivas, solutions marketing manager and author of a new report from Opower touting the benefits of extending Opower’s program to residential consumers across the country. “The largest utility programs have been CFL programs, and utilities are increasingly unable to count CFL program savings toward their targets. This is opening up huge holes in their portfolios,” he says.

Opower, working with utilities, provides residential consumers with energy efficiency reports about how they use energy, and compares their usage to their neighbors’ usage. The company says its program yields two to three percent savings per household. While that may seem like a small amount, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s all done with software and 90 to 95 percent of the savings is based on behavioral changes. That means homeowners don’t spend much to reap the savings.

So, if you multiply all that low-cost Opower savings across all households in the US, the cost is low and the impact is big, says the new Opower report, Opower Potential Report

The report says that if all utilities provided customers with energy consumption reports analyzing how they use energy in their homes, $2.2 billion in savings would be reaped. That translates to avoiding 10 million metric tons of carbon emissions—which is more than twice as much as is avoided by the entire solar sector in the U.S.

The carbon-emissions data is especially surprising—and hopefully will be an eye-opener for those who tend to yawn when talk turns to energy efficiency. And if you don’t believe the numbers, consider this: Opower’s data has been evaluated again and again, says Srinivas.

“Our program has been evaluated 29 times; it’s one of the most evaluated programs in energy efficiency. We use that data set to predict our savings,” he says.

With this latest report, the data shows the power of energy efficiency on a national basis.

“When Opower works with an individual utility, we can predict pretty accurately what they will save. This report extends our forecasting across the US,” says Srinivas.

Of course, the report is a call for more utilities to get on the ball and embrace Opower’s program. Not only will they see low-cost energy savings. The utilities will improve their customer ratings.

“Research shows that customers who are more aware of energy efficiency programs have higher customer satisfaction scores. You want to involve as much of your customer base as possible in energy efficiency. The impact on customer satisfaction goes up,” Srinivas says.

Opower provides a convincing argument for unrolling its program nationally. Will Opower entice all utilities to embrace its mission? What are its challenges? Tell us what you think on our linkedin group here: Energy Efficiency Markets on Linked In

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

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