Bringing Value to Low-Income Communities

September 15, 2017 | Blog

A recent webinar presented by Apogee, Bringing Value to Low-Income Communities, drew more than 100 registrants. Apogee is committed to finding new ways for utilities to support their hard-to-serve customers. The fact that this webinar saw record registrations from utilities across the country illustrates the challenges faced by utilities in engaging this market segment are virtually universal, and that ongoing improvement in this area is a high priority to us all.

This hard-to-serve segment includes low-income consumers, renters, tenants of multi-family dwellings, new homeowners, and the newly launched. Proposed 2018 federal budget cuts to social programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) appear likely to result in greater financial strain for many of these consumers. The proposed cuts take place against the backdrop of broader economic trends. According to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, “For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong. And this stagnation of national income accruing at the bottom is not due to population aging. Quite the contrary: For the bottom half of the working-age population (adults below 65), income has actually fallen.” Whatever the final outcome of the 2018 federal budget, Americans under mounting financial pressure are likely to turn increasingly to their service providers for assistance.

Some utilities have already begun anticipating this trend.

When session attendees were asked “Do you have a low-income strategy?” during an in session poll they responded:

  • Yes, but it is not successful  5%
  • Yes, some success but needs improvement  55%
  • Yes, it is very successful  7%
  • If yes, does it include weatherization 34%
  • No, but we are thinking about it  34%

No matter the phase of their low-income strategy, the words we hear overwhelmingly from our clients are, “We need simple, effective ways to communicate with our hard-to-serve customers.” Though there is no single way to characterize all hard-to-serve customers, in general these individuals have little or no discretionary funds to invest in energy efficiency and are often not aware of the utility or community programs that can help them with payments. They lack wherewithal, whether financial, informational, or both, and often don’t know how their energy decisions affect the amount they pay. Above all, they feel out of control.

Apogee’s new offering, the Energy Platform for Information and Communication (EPIC), is and outbound communications strategy designed to help customers regain control of, energy usage. EPIC allows customers to manage their communication preferences and choose the medium and frequency by which they receive actionable alerts, such as, “Today is going to be very hot. Keep blinds and curtains closed between noon and 6pm to make your home more comfortable.”  Where weatherization or retrofit services are recommended. Families can learn to take control of their spend with different payment options like prepaid and budget billing.

With timely energy efficiency guidance that emphasizes behavior change, not monetary investment, EPIC restores this choice, control, and care while helping consumers and utilities alike see real savings

Our next webinar in this series focusing on this hard-to-serve segment will be Oct. 10th at 2:00 Eastern, “The Journey From Transaction to Relationship.” Register to reserve your seat today.

About The Author

Jim Malcom, Executive VP, Apogee Interactive, Inc.

Mr. Malcom, has been Apogee’s advocate for low income initiatives for the past 2 years. He brings more than 25 years in corporate finance and accounting to Apogee, which began with the firms KPMG and Ernst & Young in Atlanta. He has held senior posts as chief financial officer, corporate controller, vice president and treasurer for such area companies as Heidelberg USA, LecStar Telecom and Powertel.

Jim is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration, a certified public accountant, and a chartered global management accountant.

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