May 18, 2023

Low- to moderate-income households are demographic groups that utilities nationwide have struggled to effectively engage in demand response (DR) programs. Even for market rate customers, driving program adoption for residential DR programs is no small feat, given customers’ perceived inconvenience from having their thermostat settings overridden, and the "big brother" vibe that comes with it. In addition, the value proposition comes across as confusing since it reflects a utility's operational improvements and reliability, which is hard for most customers to digest and understand. 

When confronted with substantial MW reduction goals through their DR program, Salt River Project (SRP) determined they needed to approach customer engagement differently and chose to pilot a new program delivery method targeting the 105,000 low- to moderate-income (LMI) customers in their service territory. SRP collaborated with TechniArt, EnergyHub, and Google to facilitate a demand response pre-enrollment (DRPE) platform to increase targeted LMI customer participation.

Improving the DRPE experience

TechniArt, now a part of Resource Innovations, spearheaded the development of a dedicated DRPE platform that paired either one (1) or two (2) Nest Thermostats with other energy-efficient products to form an attractive kit that customers could use to increase home efficiency, in addition to participating in SRP's DR program. We used a coupon code at the front gate to restrict access to the platform and developed unique codes for SRP's marketing team to provide to eligible customers. We mapped each unique coupon code to the required customer information to enroll in SRP's DR program. When a customer entered the site with their code, their information was stored, written to the order, and passed via API upon fulfillment to enroll. The premise of mitigating data collection from the customer was to improve the checkout process by reducing cart or checkout abandonment that occurs when it's required for a customer to provide data they don't know off-hand, such as their utility account number. 

Transparent messaging

Since the platform only marketed a single program and offered to the customer, TechniArt, EnergyHub, and SRP collaborated on a transparent messaging approach, providing information about SRP's DR program and what customers can expect prominently throughout the platform. SRP's marketing campaign consisted of direct mail and email and utilized the same messaging framework, which made for a cohesive message to customers. TechniArt designed and led remarketing efforts for customers who ordered a kit and opted into the SRP DR program but did not yet install their device(s). Much of the information in the remarketing campaign email creative contained benefits on smart thermostat use, installation instructions and resources from Google, and additional program perks, such as the $75 bill credit offered by SRP.

The results of the initiative to date are positive. After less than five months in deployment, the platform currently has a 41% conversion rate and enrolled over 8,000 customers (and over 11,000 thermostats) into SRP's demand response program. SRP and TechniArt are planning adjustments for the second phase of this pilot initiative for execution over the summer.