Last December, we checked in with Seattle City Light, one of Opower’s long-time program partners and the nation’s first carbon-neutral utility, about their pioneering work in the fields of customer engagement and energy efficiency.
In an interview with Lars Henrikson, City Light’s Sr. Planning & Development Specialist, we learned that the utility forecasts their average customer will need to reduce electricity use by more than 1% per year in the coming decades to ensure adequate electricity supplies. He added that City Light sees customer-driven energy savings as a paramount resource in planning the electric grid of the future and keeping costs low for consumers.
Investments in behavioral efficiency programs are already punching above their weight in helping Seattle residents manage their electric bills. A new report by the independent evaluation firm DNV-GL reveals that in the 5-year lifetime of City Light’s Home Energy Reports program, savings results have gotten better and better every year, and now rank among the best seen in Opower's portfolio of utility partners.
Five years into the program, Seattle households are now saving an average of 3.5% off their electric bills, relative to a population of control households who have not received personalized insights via Opower's platform. Seen in the context of benchmark savings results -- commonly in the range of 1.5-2.5% -- Seattle's performance is exemplary by both national and international standards.
What’s responsible for Seattle City Light's exceptional -- and exceptionally persistent -- electric behavioral savings results? According to Lars Henrikson of City Light, it may have something to do with Seattle area residents’ strong environmental profile (which helped the city edge out Denver in this year's Opower Efficiency Bowl), as well as their utility’s ongoing commitment to customer education.
As Henrikson has noted, “Seattle City Light is customer-owned and has had a long history of providing meaningful efficiency programs, as well as reliable information about efficiency, so customers view the information in the Home Energy Reports as helpful advice from a trusted source.
And as we’ve pointed out before, successful behavior programs like those at Seattle City Light aren’t just good for savings but also for improving customer sentiment. The utility is doubling down on its efforts to improve their customer service and relationships, and the Home Energy Report program is helping. Based on a recent internal study, 83% of customers in the City Light program believe the utility wants to help them reduce their home energy use, and 86% say that their utility is a trustworthy source of energy information.