Utilities Help Customers Achieve Energy Affordability with Oracle
The pandemic and a resuming threat of shutoffs have heightened the issue of energy affordability in the US. A new Oracle Utilities Opower solution provides utilities a better way to find, reach, and enroll limited income customers in programs that can help. The solution includes predictive analytics to identify limited income customers and new outbound messages to reach them with money and energy-saving opportunities. Most importantly, the Opower solution makes it easy for people to act. A personalized programs one-stop shop brings together bill assistance and energy efficiency programs, confirms eligibility, and shows each customer their best first step towards achieving energy affordability.
“Helping people find energy affordability programs takes great coordination between utilities and nonprofit partners,” said Katrina Metzler, executive director at the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition. “Those handoffs between organizations can create barriers to program adoption, and there is a clear opportunity for this new Opower solution to make these important programs work better for everyone.”
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Extended time at home during the pandemic and increasingly volatile weather are all taking a toll on household energy costs. In a recent survey, 23% of US respondents noted they could not pay their bill for the first time last year, and 56% were not aware of programs their energy provider offers to help. The Opower solution for limited income customers enables utilities to address this growing issue by:
Using predictive analytics to find more customers in need: Utilities often rely on incomplete or out-of-date data to identify and reach limited income customers. The new Opower solution applies predictive analytics to utility, third-party, and customer-provided data to identify financially vulnerable customers and predict program eligibility. Using this method, the Opower X consulting team identified 78% more limited income customers for one Northeastern utility to reach with billing assistance and efficiency programs. The new solution automates these analytics to make it easy for every utility to do the same.
Sending the right messages to increase awareness and adoption: The new solution delivers personalized messages throughout the year that influence people to act. Account status alerts reach customers with program offers before they enter collections or disconnect. New affordability insights and recommendations tailor the experience for limited income customers through home energy reports, high bill alerts, and weekly energy updates. Ongoing SMS engagement helps customers save on every bill and take each next step to achieve energy affordability.
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“Delivering a better experience to limited income customers is a strategic priority for BGE,” Amanda Janaskie, Manager, Energy Efficient Programs. “The work Opower is doing today to engage with these important customers is good for our communities and our business. This new solution can help us reach more people on a personal level and more effectively serve our customers.”
Enabling faster, easier enrollment in energy affordability programs: In addition to not knowing what programs are available, customers are often uncertain whether they qualify for programs and how to enroll. The new Opower solution simplifies this entire experience with a one-stop programs shop for customers to visit and utility customer service representatives to use when customers call. Customers can answer a few questions that determine their program eligibility, learn about all the programs available to them, how much money they can save, and how to get started.
“The pandemic intensified our focus on what was already a major issue of energy affordability in the US. With investments in clean energy infrastructure putting more and more strain on household energy bills, decarbonization could make the affordability gap worse,” said Scott Neuman, senior vice president of Oracle Utilities Opower. “This new solution brings artificial intelligence and behavioral science into the customer experience so utilities can reach limited income customers on an individual level. By doing that, Opower can help utilities reduce emissions, improve affordability, and provide better customer service all at once.”