Five best practices to engage customers for residential demand response (from a DR pioneer)



In the early days of demand response, we thought technology was the most important issue. Now we know better. It's the customer engagement piece that's hardest of all. That's why I was pleased to get this guest contribution from Comverge, a company that has arguably the longest and largest body of experience in residential DR. - Jesse Berst


By R. Blake Young


"There’s no roadmap for life.” "There’s no manual for parenting.” "There’s no magic formula for success.” We’ve all heard these or similar expressions. And while they make a good point, at Comverge we believe we’ve developed five best practices to raise engagement and participation rates in residential demand response programs.


In fact, by taking advantage of an integrated suite of software, hardware and services, utilities across the country have been able to achieve high levels of customer participation. For example:

·         48% of eligible households in the Pepco Holdings (PHI) residential markets of Washington, D.C. and its northern Maryland suburbs are participating in their Energy Wise Rewards demand response program.

·         52% of eligible households are participating in the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) Cool Sentry program.


These high participation rates indicate that consumers are willing and eager to become more engaged with their energy use. They also demonstrate just how valuable demand response can be as a resource.


So how do utilities follow PHI’s and SMECO’s lead and drive high customer engagement and participation in their own residential demand response programs? Consider five key areas:


1. Analysis: Understand the target demographics. Segmenting is especially important in identifying customers most likely to participate in a residential demand response program. A good strategy builds off of those initial participants, producing positive word-of-mouth, and ultimately creating a virtuous cycle. Subsequent tactical messaging will then be necessary to reach additional segments within the footprint. However, ultimately, all core messaging needs to resonate with the broad range of customers that utilities need to engage.