By Susan Bartlett
Last year we released a blog post offering 10 suggestions for communities to Get Ready for 100. Today, we’d like to dig deeper into our third suggestion – collaborating with your energy utility providers. Here is an excerpt from that original post:
Few communities have municipally-owned utilities with direct control over energy supply decisions, so including your energy utilities early on in clean energy conversations is essential. If your community is pursing renewable energy adoption at a pace that is quicker than your utilities are planning for their overall service territory, you’ll need to work together to understand what is possible and what paths are available to achieve your goals. It’s important to recognize that utilities operate in a regulated environment with multiple stakeholders and may serve a broad range of communities and customers, so you’ll need to look for regulatory win-wins that benefit your community and your utility.
Collaboration is the Key
The pace of change in the energy arena is rapid and exciting. With new technologies defying previous expectations in terms of economics, acceptance, demand, and deployment and expectations rising at a matching pace, the potential for unmet expectations and missed opportunities to work together are real and impactful.
Fortunately, Brendle Group’s experience with both communities and utilities has enabled our team to develop an approach to address energy conservation (including demand side management promotion) and renewable energy and climate goals such that utilities and communities are working together toward the same outcomes.
Community energy planning is a way to have all the important parties at the table to share information (data and community context), identify realistic yet ambitious energy goals, and pool tactical resources to get meaningful work accomplished toward those goals. The approach also raises the level of communication and conversation well beyond planning to accommodate an energy landscape that continues to evolve quickly.
Specifically, Brendle Group’s community energy planning approach gives voice to community desires and utility frameworks through a series of workshops that explore data-centered energy priorities for a community with what is possible now and in the future with their utilities if they work together.
Each Partner Has Much to Offer and Much to Gain
Brendle Group has brought this approach to more than 39 communities in Colorado and Minnesota, as well as 4 communities in Utah, with more on the horizon. We have started with utilities that are seeking to actively engage their service area customers in a conversation around conservation and renewable energy options rather than being left on the sidelines while goals and commitments are made without their knowledge, input, and resources. With proactive utility support for the process, communities have come on board with the realization that the very best outcomes are built on partnerships that leverage utility and community resources. For example, utilities have demand side management (DSM) programs specifically designed to help customers use less energy. Many also have programs that encourage customers to support or even own renewable energy systems. What communities are able to bring to the partnership include deeper understanding customer priorities, credible communication channels, existing outreach infrastructure, and staff resources. It’s a win-win-win collaboration that allows communities to make significant progress toward energy and climate goals, increases participation in utility DSM and renewable energy programs, and at the end of the day provides cost savings and renewable energy opportunities to a broader swath of community members.
Interested in learning more about how your community or utility might take advantage of this unique process? Download our info sheet now or comment below.
About the Author – Susan is a senior energy planner and program manager at Brendle Group. Through impeccable management and customer service, Susan is a sought-after leader for energy program design and delivery. In her more than 25-year career, she has led development and delivery of highly visible and successful programs helping communities, school districts, and businesses achieve their energy-related goals. She is adept at marshalling collaboration among unlikely partners for surprising and positive program impacts. Susan’s mastery in the art of getting things done includes skillfully wrangling resources, leveraging formal channels and informal networks, and tenacious delivery on commitments and key metrics.
At Brendle Group, Susan works with utilities to develop direct customer engagement programs that increase awareness, improve efficiency efforts, and elevate cost savings. She also puts her operational and coordination skills to work in developing utility-community partnerships to identify and achieve shared energy and water goals. Susan’s energy expertise combined with her understanding of the cultures of organizations and importance of stakeholders serves to inform broader sustainability initiatives, including sustainability management and climate action planning.