by Jill Cliburn
We will have the discussion loaded to our webinar archive in just a few days, so if you missed it, take a listen. But in addition, I thought I’d return to some of the resources and examples that we discussed. In my consulting practice, I’ve found that simple truths are less elusive—and often achievable—when they’re in the context of real-world examples. So we’ll share some of those and links to the new CSVP documents we discussed.
First, I’ll share details on the wisdom that I passed along from Jane Peters, President of Research Into Action, a firm that’s focused on energy-program market research and evaluation. Almost ten years ago, Jane did a meta-study of many years of process evaluation experience among her colleagues, to see if they could spot markers for program success. Now, I haven’t asked Jane if the list has changed recently, but I doubt it. It goes something like this:
- Top level support is the top predictor of program success.
- Because of their access to data, utilities are suited to lead, but they succeed best when mission-driven and advocacy-oriented.
- Trade allies are a key to program success, but they need to be well-prepared and motivated.
- Consumer word-of-mouth (aka, testimonial marketing) is invaluable.
- Campaigns need to be mindful of timing, e.g., business cycles for commercial programs, community events, allowing time for new processes to take hold.
- Participation from civic groups and other stakeholder groups is an engine for success.
At CSVP, we have tried to show utilities how to apply these words of advice. For example, there are lessons-learned in our new presentation-format report, Key Points to Consider In Achieving Your Best Balance Between Out-sourced and In-House Program Strategies. The slide I presented in today’s webinar, showing the cross-departmental roles that must be filled in order to complete a program design, asked viewers to review the list and consider it in light of their in-house expertise and band-width. An honest assessment of the cross-departmental team can help program designers to set a path for collaboration and for getting the out-sourced support they need. If commitment to initiate a program is strong, but commitment to manage the details is weak, then the utility might do well to engage a third party that has strong experience and motivation.
In addition, we were lucky to have Herman Trabish on our call. As a reporter and industry analyst, he provides a fresh perspective on how the utilities succeed or fail, when trying to achieve success in simple, but not easy ways. See:
When Herman mentioned time of use rates, which will be part of the new community solar program for Hawaiian Electric customers, we were reminded of another new resource, CSVP’s Twelve Community-Solar Pricing Strategies for U.S. Utilities. This is a multi-page summary table of pricing strategies at utilities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas. It does not evaluate or rank the different strategies, but it is instructive in showing the range of possibilities. As we mentioned in our remarks, the attention to detail that some of these utilities demonstrated seems to have made a big difference and sets some of them apart.
The Pricing Strategies document is located in our Library, under Market Development for Community Solar, and that is where you will also find the critique of California’s policy-driven community energy programs. That white paper, Community Solar: California’s Shared Renewables at a Crossroads, is co-authored by John Powers with CSVP’s consultants from Navigant, Karin Corfee and Andrea Romano. A shorter version of their paper is featured in Renewable Energy World, http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2017/10/community-solar-california-s-shared-renewables-at-a-crossroads.html, and will be discussed at the Power-Gen conference in December.
At CSVP, we have much more to share, and we will do that, with our upcoming debut of new pages on our website, comprising a Community Solar Solutions Toolkit. All webinar registrants will receive an announcement of that debut shortly. Meanwhile, I’m off to the National Solar Conference in Denver October 9-12, where I’ll address yet another topic that is dear to the CSVP team’s hearts. That is, solar plus as the next evolution of an enhanced, high-value community solar model. Stay tuned!