Energy Efficiency – California Dreamin’

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Energy efficiency, the red-headed stepchild of energy planning, is re-gaining recognition by utilities and their regulatory agencies – in some U.S. markets and in some states – for its cost-effective role in saving the farm.*

(Note: The term ‘energy efficiency’ could benefit from a visit with “Extreme Makeover.” It could use a new name, better brand image and improved positioning across the country – with an emphasis on non-energy benefits as well as bill-savings. “This season, expect more emotion, tears and joy as life long dreams and fairy tale fantasies come true.”)

Until that time, California has set the bar high for coordinating and organizing statewide education and outreach efforts – building a partnership of California’s utilities, residents, businesses, institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations working to save energy.

“Saving Energy. It’s a Way of Life.”

Initiated in 2001, Flex Your Power (“California’s Energy Efficiency Resource”) says it uses “a broad range of marketing and outreach strategies, including television, radio and newspaper ads, printed educational materials, events, a comprehensive website resource serving all parties statewide, a biweekly electronic newsletter, forums and workshops, and partnerships with businesses, local governments, water agencies, non-profits and others, including the state and federal government agencies responsible for energy and water efficiency.”

“The Flex Your Power statewide campaign [with approximately $20.5M in funding] will closely coordinate with the utilities, third-party implementers and other program providers to develop materials, events, the website and other outreach strategies that provide program information using consistent and compelling messages. Specific targeted campaigns for rural areas and to reach California’s Hispanic population are also funded under this program.”

The Flex Your Power electronic newsletter (sign up here) covers news, progress, case studies, design and building, technology and products, incentive programs, policy news and ideas. Anyone confused about the California Public Utility Commission’s judicial/regulatory decisions authorizing the 2006-2008 energy efficiency portfolio plans and funding levels ($2.7 billion!) for the state’s largest utilities might best start with Flex Your Power before trawling individual utility websites.

Not to be left behind in bleeding-edge communications technology, Flex Your Power provides an e-newswire audio and podcast (a “free online subscription-based radio shows for your computer or portable mp3 player. When you subscribe to a podcast your podcatching software will download shows as they become available. You can expect a new e-Newswire show every two weeks.”)

Unlike SmartPower, Flex Your Power does not explain its market research or strategy, nor provide examples of advertising on its website – all of which is insight for those of us living outside California who market energy efficiency and don’t get to see the fruits of California’s labor first hand.

* NREL layoffs. A week to the day that President Bush announced his so-called “Advanced Energy Initiative,” the National Renewable Energy Laboratory laid off Carol Tombari and a slew of other employees at the laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Tombari’s job was to promote energy-efficient cleantech through state and local initiatives…to create demand for cleantech coming out of R&D, an essential element in the push-me, pull-you of market transformation.

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