With a growing population reaching 7.2 billion people on the planet combined with an ever-increasing level of consumption, the demand on Earth’s energy and water resources continue to grow. This is a major problem facing the world, and if kept unchecked the United Nations has predicted that over 1.8 billion people will have no water to drink by 20251.
The onus to save energy and water must be taken seriously, and this green awakening is certainly on the rise, with companies taking sincere efforts to promote energy efficiency and water conservation among their customers. However, a green-gap still exists between awareness and action, and certain behavioral changes must be promoted to create environmentally sustainable energy and water system.
How can we make a difference?
According to Roper's Green Gauge study, 50% of American adults say they would do more for the environment if only they knew how2. The study clearly shows that a shift in mindset can be achieved by educating customers to make better energy and water choices. Typically, lack of knowledge can also be cited as a barrier to personal engagement, and certainly, with most customers willing to make changes, companies must refocus their efforts on educating and empowering customers to take simple and practical green choices in their day-to-day lives. This can be better summarized by understanding the impact customers can have by making small changes in their behavior. As one good example, turning off the tap while brushing can help save 1,500 gals per year per person3. Imagine the amount of water saved if every customer would be aware of these statistics. Over time, though the customer mindset has shifted to become more environmentally-conscious, half of them may lack the information to be personally involved in increasing their green behavior. So, educating them to make better energy and water choices is critical and the first major step towards savings.
A Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative webinar on the Motivations and Emotions of Engaged Customers revealed that highly engaged customers tend to be more future-focused, in comparison to low-engaged customers who focus more on the present. This means utilities must take a strategic approach to motivate customers in order to achieve the desired result of conservation. With so much information at their disposal, it can be difficult for a customer to segregate valuable insights from ordinary data. That’s why utilities need to help customers interpret usage data by providing it in the form of intuitive reports and graphs, that would empower them to make informed choices. Delivering compelling data is a great first step in motivating customers to manage their usage better. But sometimes it takes more to encourage customers to participate. Introducing a bonus component in the form of rebates and incentives can further incite customers to adopt saving behavior and actions. Such programs are incredibly effective in driving one-time actions at specific times, such as energy savings during peak load events.
The road ahead
Innovation has not been a hallmark of the utility sector and has largely been limited to traditional research and development. Addressing the global energy and water needs will require a stronger focus on innovation and ideation that will lead to developing a customer-centric culture that will educate and empower their customers to make better energy and water choices.
A successful utility needs to have in-depth knowledge of their customers and the industry. As utilities develop their business strategies, the technology choices they make will need to be determined by the differentiating capabilities that will drive customer engagement to achieve their business goals. It is important to have a clear view of how they want to move forward to strike a balance between serving their customers and creating an environmentally sustainable world. Thus, utilities should realistically define and shape the strategy for how they can create a differentiable advantage over other providers.
The first of its kind event, WE3 Summit is a unique day dedicated to educating, engaging, and empowering people to realize the water-energy transformation. With a group of innovative leaders, the summit marks the beginning of an extraordinary movement for the water-energy nexus!