Today my tweener boys are enjoying real-world experiential learning. They’re putting on their ISO 12312-2–compliant glasses, cutting holes in cardboard boxes, and counting down the minutes to 11:46 a.m. MT, when 93 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. You might say their whole day is revolving around the solar eclipse.

Image of a total eclipse

Utilities’ Solar Eclipse Outreach

But what are utilities doing to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event, without freaking out solar customers with a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo about the effects of the eclipse on a solar-powered grid?

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) posted the article PG&E Planning for Potential Effects of Solar Eclipse on its Currents news site, saying:

The eclipse will lead to two concurrent and opposite effects. On one side the eclipse will reduce utility-scale solar supply, which will have to be made up from other energy sources, such as hydroelectric and gas-fired generation. On the other side, the eclipse will reduce the amount of rooftop-solar generation leading to a rise in customer demand. At the eclipse’s peak, [PG&E meteorologist] Clifford estimates a worst-case scenario of a 2,600-megawatt difference between demand and available energy supply across the PG&E service area. For comparison’s sake, the typical PG&E system load for the late morning of Aug. 21 is 13,500 megawatts, said company meteorologist Scott Strenfel.

Portland General Electric (PGE) set up a Win a Solar Eclipse Celebration package where PGE customers who signed up for a renewable power option could win a hotel stay and VIP passes to wine country eclipse-viewing events.

Image of PGE's Win a Solar Eclipse Celebration package sweepstakes web page

The technical details of the effects of an eclipse on the grid don’t mean much to residential customers. That’s because they don’t know much about solar in the first place. Utilities can use opportunities like our sun’s grandest show to educate customers about solar-powered energy and its benefits.

How Customers Get Information About Solar

E Source market research shows that residential customers aren’t getting the message about solar from their utility, creating a missed engagement opportunity. In fact, they’re more commonly receiving information about sun power from sources such as TV ads, Internet ads, and chitchat with friends, family, or neighbors.

Once you know what your residential customers want, you can create strategies, programs, education, and communications to give it to them.

As part of the E Source Solar Strategy Service, we annually conduct in-depth customer market research to help utilities better understand customers’ opinions, needs, desires, and behaviors related to solar. Once you know what your residential customers want, you can create strategies, programs, education, and communications to give it to them.

We’ve been busy analyzing the data and will be sharing preliminary findings with our Solar Strategy Service customers and the Solar Education and Communications Working Group at the Solar Education & Communications Gap: Early Residential Market Research Results web conference at 2:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 29. Next month we’ll share the complete results and identify some trends by comparing the 2017 data with previous years’ data.

Don’t Miss Opportunities to Talk to Solar Customers

The solar eclipse is an ideal opportunity to talk to customers about solar. How often does the sun—blasting so much energy you can’t even look at it—get center stage? You don’t have to bore and confuse customers with science and the complexities of the grid; just show them what the world’s most powerful energy source is capable of: heating the entire world, dancing with the moon, and microwaving afterschool burritos.

Send Us Your Eclipse Pics!

Got cool eclipse pics? Send them our way!

Leave a comment below to tell us how you’re celebrating the eclipse today. And send us your photos—but don’t take them without your safety glasses!

Contributing Authors

Lead Analyst, Market Research Services

Rachel Cooper develops and implements market research studies, critically analyzes data, and interprets findings to help E Source members better...