This week I received instructions for my main summer project! My project is to develop a post-installation customer touchpoint program for utilities. In simplified terms, to create a way for utilities to interact with customers after they get a rebate for installing energy-efficient equipment (post-installation).
One of the main problems with the utility adoption of upstream programs (for definition see my last blog post) is that customers don’t realize that they receive a rebate when they buy energy-efficient items. A rebate is an amount of money that is returned, refunded, or reduces the cost of an item.
For example, if I go to Home Depot to buy new lighting fixtures for my home, I will find that LED lights are reasonably priced when compared to other non-LED options (like fluorescent lights). However, LED lights are far more efficient in their energy use and can save me a lot of money over time. Why are the LEDs so competitively priced? The answer is utility rebates! Unfortunately I, like most customers, have no idea that I just benefitted from a rebate and the utility loses an opportunity for good public relations.
To make things more confusing, rebates can be used by distributors in different ways. Lighting rebates get passed directly from distributor to customer, making the sales price of an item cheaper. However, HVAC rebates go to the distributor who then chooses how to use the rebate. This means that instead of making an HVAC system’s sales price directly cheaper, the distributor may spend the rebate training their sales team to sell energy-efficient equipment or by buying additional energy-efficient HVAC systems. At the end of the day, the rebate helps the distributor sell more efficient HVAC systems, but the rebate’s customer impact is less straightforward.
Utilities care a lot about what their customers think of them, especially because customers negatively associate utilities with electric and gas bills. That’s where my project comes into play! My plan is to design customer media like mailers, emails, decales, and even social media posts to inform the customer that they saved money on their energy-efficient purchase(s) due to rebates from utilities. This portrays the utilities in a positive light and leads them to implement more midstream programs. More midstream programs means more energy efficiency, less energy use, reduced resource use, and fewer emissions, which protects our environment and combats climate change. The best thing about my project is that it will *hopefully* be implemented in Connecticut and in the hands of citizens by the time I leave ES!
Outside of work, we often have events like happy hours and team-building activities. This past week, we had a super interesting team building event at a company called 1AM that teaches graffiti classes. When I first walked into the building, I was struck instantly by the graffiti that coated every inch of wall space
They let us develop our own “tags”, which are a graffiti artist’s signature, and tag a small canvas to put up in the office. I chose to write my family’s name in Mandarin “zhou” which roughly “translates” to Chow (well, at least that’s what the immigration official decided for my grandfather). It’s on the middle right edge of the canvas in orange.
Then they let us practice our newfound graffiti skills on the walls of the room. Here is some Cal pride!
Finally, we created a huge image of our team name KiLOWATT which looked SO good.
Huge thanks to everyone at 1AM for teaching us about the history and art of graffiti! I never practice visual art (as a musician) so it was really amazing to get a taste of the subculture of graffiti and street art from real artists.