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Proactive Billing Alerts Create Claimable Energy Savings

Utility call center and customer survey data confirm that Opower Proactive Alerts—those pings out to customers warning them about high bills—reduce calls and boost customer satisfaction. That’s more than enough to make us happy, but, we were pretty pumped to find those alerts also help people save energy, too!

The graph above shows the results of two experiments across five AMI-enabled utilities. When we enrolled one group of customers in an alerts-only program, within an 18-month period they used 0.72% less energy than the control group. In the second experiment, we started with four existing paper+email home energy report (HER) programs. When we enabled alerts for half the eligible customers receiving HERs, we found that, on average, customers with alerts enabled saved nearly 0.3% more energy than the customers just getting paper and email reports.

That word “enabled” is important: the 40-50% of customers who actually received an alert during that measurement period saved much more energy. For these four utilities, proactive alerts created incremental savings—savings they could claim.

Earlier this year, we had another data-driven epiphany:  digital savings from alerts aren’t just available to AMI-enabled utilities. For everyone else, the Opower platform uses billed usage data, weather data and machine learning applied with some serious computing power to alert customers trending toward high bills. Among five utilities across North America, we found that customers who receive non-AMI proactive billing alerts save 0.1-0.2% more energy than customers receiving just HERs. Given those results, we undertook (and just completed) a round of enhancements to these alerts aimed at creating even more savings—and even more satisfied customers.

Let’s step back and think about what this means for a minute. For the past ten years, we’ve used machine learning to study and model the relationships between paper report delivery cadences and energy savings rates. We can accurately forecast and reliably deliver statistically significant, cost-effective energy savings with just six, four, two, or even a single paper report per year rather than the eight paper reports per year other vendors need to send. We can forecast savings from reports with a wide variety of delivery cadences, delivered in first, third, or fifth year of the program, and targeted to customers with various usage profiles and fuel types.

But now that we know the incremental savings we can expect from proactive alerts, we can also offer utilities a choice: Would you rather continue sending X paper reports per year or enable digital alerts for Y customers instead?

If budgets and savings targets support it, our clients also have the option to do both: maintain paper and send proactive alerts in order to serve more customers and maximize energy savings.

And that’s what’s most exciting here: we don’t just have new digital products to offer. We have the ability to thoughtfully shape digital DSM programs to suit each utility’s unique situation.

 

This article is part of our Beyond Paper Opower blog series. In our next post we’ll look into digital peak savings and this question: “But won’t all this digital communication get lost in the crowd?”

 

Read the rest of the posts in this blog series:

 

Editor’s notes: (1.) Lead art and inserted photo feature the authors (Kristen Emhoff, Manager, DSM Product and Program Insights​ is pictured in the lead story art and Moiz Kapadia, Opower Product Manager, is pictured mid-article) with variations of the Opower mascot Pluggie. (2.) In 2016, Opower joined Oracle Utilities. Learn more here.

 

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