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Steve Klemm is the marketing director for an award-winning energy efficiency program in Illinois that serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers. In his role, Steve focuses on delivering effective marketing strategies through the use of innovative concepts, consistent branding, and impactful engagement tactics across both traditional and digital channels. His business acumen and prior experience as a small business owner provides valuable insight when developing strategic direction for program initiatives. Steve earned an MBA from Bradley University and B.S. in finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Residential energy efficiency has played a significant role in Ameren Illinois’ energy-saving programs. Leidos manages these programs for Ameren, who has identified low- and moderate-income households as underserved when it comes to home retrofits and efficiency measures. Over the coming years, Ameren Illinois and Leidos will partner on several exciting initiatives to engage these customers through energy efficiency and positively impact lower income communities.

Federal and state financial assistance for energy efficiency upgrades typically does not extend to households with incomes between 200-300 percent of the poverty level, so Ameren Illinois felt it was important to serve these customers through its income-qualified incentive offering. Leidos and Ameren worked together to design a program that would make it financially viable for not just low-income customers to participate, but also moderate-income households.

The Ameren/Leidos team used income, household, and online behavioral data to target eligible customers and customize communication efforts. These communications promoted the Ameren Illinois offering, defined incentives, and outlined the benefits of energy efficiency. A key reason to the success of this project was developing an understanding of the type of customer being served. The team was careful to not exclusively focus on deep retrofit projects, but instead include more affordable project options. This approach provided customers with reasonable out-of-pocket costs while also increasing the number of homes and families able to be served by Ameren Illinois. With this design, the team was able to serve their target customers to the fullest and maximize the program’s reach throughout the Ameren Illinois service territory.

Ameren Illinois is not alone in its goal to reach low- and moderate-income customers. Increasingly, utilities across the country are designing energy efficiency programs to help the people and communities who need it most. Learning from the success of Ameren Illinois’ Home Efficiency Income-Qualified offering, here are the top four considerations to reaching this audience:

  1. Gather quality data. Before launching a program, be sure you’re working with quality data — especially information on income range, household size, and other demographic characteristics. Data is key to success in the next consideration – learn about your audience.
  2. Learn about your audience. Each customer segment is different and responds to communication efforts in a unique way. Be sure to research your audience and know their barriers to energy efficiency. In the Ameren Illinois case, the team knew that moderate-income customers may not be motivated to participate in an income-qualified offering if adequate incentive funds were not available to them. In addition, the targeted customer group included many busy families – so time (or lack thereof) was a significant consideration in program design and marketing. Your Trade Ally network can also be a great resource as you learn about your customers and their decision-making process.
  3. Understand the challenges. It is important to know what hurdles exist — and plan accordingly — when designing an offering that serves low- and moderate-income customers.
  4. Simplify wherever possible. On the program side, take a close look at areas that can be enhanced or simplified to improve the overall customer experience — then leverage the potential time savings and significant incentives as major selling points for busy customers.
The Income-Qualified offering underwent a program redesign in August 2016 to provide the best possible customer experience, and in January 2018 the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance recognized it with two Inspiring Efficiency Awards for impact and marketing. Since the program redesign in 2016, the offering has served more than 2,200 customers and generated more than $900,000 in annual savings for those households. The team has uncovered additional, longer-term benefits as well. For example, customers who experience the value of energy efficiency firsthand are more likely to pursue additional efficiency improvements in the future — and make it a topic of conversation with friends and family. And, as customers’ disposable incomes increase, their knowledge and commitment to energy efficiency can provide longer term economic benefits to the community at large.

Leidos continues to work with Ameren Illinois to educate customers on the value of energy efficiency, to train Program Allies on program specifics and how best to promote the offering, and to streamline the program processes to ensure the optimal customer experience.

For more information on how Leidos can help with your utility’s income-qualified program or any utility energy efficiency needs, request a call with one of our experts.
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