CPS’s Innovative Rebates
February 09, 2017 | posted by The Institute
CPS Energy has been running a residential thermostat demand response program for 14 years now, and with about 20% of customers signed up, the Texas utility was having trouble expanding.
“We thought we'd reached saturation,” said Justin Chamberlain, demand response program manager for CPS. Getting new customers on board with the utility's direct installation offer was becoming more difficult—but the program helps cut peak transmission costs significantly, and CPS wanted to add another 1,000 customers.
That was in 2015, and so with the holidays coming up, the public power utility serving San Antonio decided to launch an aggressive and innovative Black Friday promotion. Two years later, CPS has added almost 4,000 customers through the offering. But also importantly, the utility has deepened local partnerships and broadened its use of social media helping to lower some advertising costs.
As more services and connected devices come to market, utilities will need to learn new strategies: reaching customers in new ways, and at times playing the long-game on engagement.
“Our philosophy is, if you can connect it we will run a program,” said Chamberlain. Currently, CPS can work with almost 20 different thermostats under the utility's My Thermostat Rewards program.
According to a survey by Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, learning thermostats now top the wish-list of smart energy consumers.
“Smart thermostats are probably the best gateway to engage consumers," SGCC President and CEO Patty Durand said last year, discussing the survey's release. "If you're going to pick one thing, the research points towards thermostats. It's something everyone is already aware of. Very high numbers of people want one."
What CPS did was raise the customer rebate for its Bring Your Own Thermostat (BYOT) program from $85 to $150. When paired with a rebate Nest was offering, it meant customers could purchase a new learning thermostat for just $20.
CPS' status as a publicly-owned utility enables it to be able to make an offer like this. “Our regulator is our city council, and they've given us the ability to offer these programs and determine they are cost effective,” said Chamberlain. “We have the flexibility to be able to adjust our offerings, and we're very fortunate in that sense.”
Link to CPS's currently offered rebates: https://www.cpsenergy.com/en/my-home/savenow.html