DSM Opportunities During the Covid-19 Emergency
Disruptions happen. Disruptions have an impact when delivering and energy efficiency programs. As a DSM industry, we have seen natural disasters, major governmental policy shifts, and economic downturns (thankfully not all at the same time) that interrupt program momentum. As Program Administrators/Implementors, how do we deal with it? Two basic questions come to mind. First, from the customer perspective, when will the status quo ante return? Second, from the Program Administrator/Implementor view, what can we do in the meantime to keep program participation moving forward?
Even in the best of times, becoming more energy efficient was often not a front of mind issue with customers. Today, customers are faced with many different priorities. Will I have a job next week? How will I pay my bills? What can I do to keep my kids occupied so they don’t drive me crazy? No matter how noble a customer’s intentions may be, energy efficiency will probably not make the top ten concerns of today’s customer. On top of this, interpersonal relationships are changing. The movement towards online interaction is happening faster than ever as customers try to maintain some type of normalcy. In a way, this is a good thing. Anecdotally, I know of people who are starting to use social media and online shopping for the first time. These customers are potentially a new target audience. Your trade allies have similar concerns. How do I stay in business? Can I make payroll? Keeping trade allies engaged is as important as reaching out to your customers.
How can program administrators keep momentum when large parts of the economy are closing? Where I live, the local government just instituted a shelter in place policy that will restrict business activity other than those deemed essential. What does this have to do with keeping program momentum? At least three types of program should continue to have participation. First, if you are offering customers an online marketplace or other types of upstream program; chances are, that with encouragement, consumers will continue to take advantage of those programs. Perhaps special incentives can be offered to promote the purchase of LED lamps and other energy saving items. Second, direct install and low-income programs will continue to have participation since they primarily overcome financial market barriers. Finally, this is also a good time to ensure your trade allies are still actively involvled. Since most of them are probably small businesses, they have an interest keeping the programs going as they want to stay in operation.
From a Program Administrator/Implementers perspective, doing nothing may be a normal reaction. Since customers are highly distracted now, some might feel that there may not be a point in trying to get their attention over all the outside noise. However, now may be the best time to do that. Customers are wanting a return to normal. Meet the customers where they are, online. Now could be a good time to reach out to customers who have previously participated in your programs and remind them that you are still there to help them with their energy needs. This is easily accomplished with a system such as eTrack. During the recession in 2009, programs interest did not wane. Programs continued with interest by customers and trade allies alike. DSM programs may not have the same volume of savings during this current crisis but reports from 2009 recession indicated that participation continued nonetheless. Now is the time to be out in front with these programs to both your customers and trade allies.
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 39 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.
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