Marketing Energy Efficiency for Local Municipalities
May 11, 2011

Once cities have created a vision for their new energy future, set goals for greenhouse gas reduction and local economic development, and scoped catalytic clean energy projects, how do they inspire residents to take action? The Efficient Cities Network, a national policy network sharing groundbreaking strategies in energy efficiency, shared best practices in a recent webinar on energy efficiency marketing.

Key takeaways from the webinar include:

1) Focus the audience – Connect with residents who are most likely to enroll in a program, such as people who have already completed an energy audit and taken the first step toward embracing energy efficiency options.

2) Create a simple message with ideas that resonate, such as:

Savings - "I will save $____ on my energy bills over ____ years"  (Quote savings per year rather than month. Bigger numbers motivate more action, according to social psychology research).

  • Comfort – “Is my daughter’s bedroom cold?”
  • Pride – “I’m smart about how I use energy”
  • Health – “I’m helping reduce asthma among children”

3) Design a one-stop-shop website, such as Thurston Energy’s.  Direct traffic to it through direct mailings and outreach at community events.

4) Guide residents step-by-step through the lifetime of a program. Help residents take increasingly more challenging actions. Here’s a sample sequence of actions for energy efficiency:

Free Compact Fluorescent (CFL) --> energy audit --> programmable thermostat--> insulation & weatherization --> replacing major appliances

Make sure contractors provide a positive experience, since referrals from neighbors are usually the largest source for new customers.

  • Make it easy for residents to take the next step – for example, submit RFP’s on behalf of residents after they get an energy audit.

5) Involve contractors in marketing: Encourage contractors to suggest energy improvements while doing other work on a house – for example, replacing a furnace.

Try these innovative ideas:

Design a community-wide challenge:

For every 100 residents who sign up for a program, invest in one solar PV system.  The Connecticut Clean Energy Communities Program tried this strategy and found resident participation was three times higher compared to cities without it.

Bolster incentives for residents:

Give a $250 rebate for a homeowner who does retrofit within 30 days of an audit.

3) Partner  with businesses:

Ask a local business to donate CFLs and then distribute them to homes along with a brochure advertising the program.

Involving the public is essential to implementing residential energy efficiency programs, but marketing campaigns can be expensive to run. However, if cities choose audiences, messages, and media strategically, they may be well-positioned to achieve success without having to spend a lot of money.

For more information:

Earth Markets develops and markets energy efficiency programs

The Babylon Project is a successful model for energy efficiency programs

Energy Savvy report on 20 home audit programs compares ways to turn audits into retrofits

“How to Make Energy Savings Info Compelling” includes great tips on messaging


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