The value utilities provide to customers goes beyond energy and money savings. Utilities also offer value through their corporate initiatives and the resources they devote to clean-energy, safety, affordability, and reliability goals.
When talking to customers about your transition to renewables and the balance of resources on the grid, show your utility’s value by communicating about the:
- Timeline and plan (in years) for reaching clean-energy goals
- Balance of cost, dependability, and environmental impact
- Need for grid reliability and infrastructure improvements
- Balance needed between the amount of electricity going into the grid and the amount of electricity being used
- Efforts your utility is making to give back to customers and the community it serves
These messages are most effective when used together. When possible, explain to customers how much utility revenue goes toward these initiatives and goals. This will give customers a clearer idea of what they’re paying for, helping them see tangible value.
In general, we see utilities communicating their value by:
- Educating customers through their own digital channels—the utility website and reports
- Doing customer outreach through marketing and public relations initiatives
- Demonstrating their commitment to sustainability by providing customers with green products, services, and programs
In this report we discuss how utilities communicate about their transition to renewables and the balance of resources on the grid through a variety of channels.
Utility websites allow for more detail and in-depth data
We’ve gathered some examples of utilities communicating about their future energy plans and balance of energy-supply resources on their websites or through links to white papers or their annual plans.
PG&E’s site has various pages with information for customers. The Understand how PG&E delivers your energy page educates customers about the smart grid and how it keeps the PG&E electric system in balance. The Understand the Smart Grid page informs customers about why modernizing the electric grid is necessary for managing energy more efficiently. It states, “The current grid is also limited in how it can use clean energy sources like wind and solar power.” On the Discover the benefits of the Smart Grid page, PG&E discusses how it uses a mix of energy sources—including wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal—and that half of its energy comes from zero-carbon sources.
The Portland General Electric (PGE) white paper A modernized grid platform for a clean energy future (PDF) discusses how the amount of power generated by resources such as solar and wind is highly variable, so energy sources need to be more flexible. It also states PGE’s energy plan for the future: “Between now and 2050, we estimate that our service area will need about 10 to 15 gigawatts of new renewable resources to transition to a clean energy economy.” A graphic in the white paper predicts that because of the rapid adoption of technologies between now and 2030:
We’ll need about 2.5 times the wind and solar we have today to meet customer demands with renewable energy.
We’ll see a ten-fold increase of energy storage capabilities on the grid.
Demand response programs will increase ten-fold.
Electric vehicles charging on the grid will increase twenty-fold.
SMUD’s Power sources web page explains how the utility gets power from various sources, including hydropower; natural-gas-fired generators; renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass; and power it purchases on the wholesale market. SMUD’s goal is a balanced and sustainable mix of sources.
FPL states on its Power Plant Projects web page that it’s delivering on a commitment to meeting its customers’ energy needs “through sound planning and low-cost, reliable and environmentally responsible new generation resources.” FPL also highlights the fact that its bills are some of the lowest in the state:
By operating efficiently and responsibly, FPL has kept its typical residential customer bills among the very lowest of all 55 electric utilities in the state—and we’re working to make them even lower. We have kept customer bills low by keeping our operating costs low and by investing in more efficient power generation technology.
Marketing, social media, and public relations campaigns are more customer-centric and accessible
Utilities use these types of campaigns to highlight their more-customer-centric messages and point customers back to their website or a landing page to learn more.
Energie NB Power
You can find Energie NB Power’s Our Energy Future TV ad campaign in E Source Energy AdVision, our database of more than 6,000 examples of utility marketing and advertising campaigns. It’s an excellent example of a utility addressing the balance of resources and energy-supply choices in a relevant way (figure 1). The ad increases awareness around future energy-supply options and starts a conversation about energy choices and priorities. In the ad, NB Power frames the content in a familiar setting: ordering at a restaurant.
Duke Energy tweeted a link to the op-ed Sound energy balance for N.C. should be based on all the facts by its then-president, David Fountain, on the need for a balanced mix of energy resources (figure 2).
Entergy Louisiana used a coordinated PR campaign to spread its message, and a local newspaper picked up the story. According to the article Entergy Louisiana reaches deal to buy solar power from plant proposed for Baton Rouge area, the utility brokered a 20-year agreement to purchase power from a proposed solar farm which started operations in October 2020. According to the article West Baton Rouge solar farm now supplying thousands with power after project’s completion, “the farm generates 50 megawatts of energy, which is the equivalent daily demands to power 9,600 homes. […] The farm is expected to save Entergy Louisiana customers $29 million over 20 years.”