Co-op Approach in Energy Efficiency
Michael Volker serves as the current chair of the Association of Energy Services Professionals. He is the first representative of a co-op to lead AESP. Volker serves as vice president of utility services for Corn Belt Energy Corporation.
When it comes to energy efficiency, co-ops (typically smaller, and by definition customer-focused) have taken a different approach than investor and municipally-owned utilities. But the co-op approach is one that the larger players could learn from.
The co-op approach to energy efficiency is to offer their members programs that are consistent with their organizations' overall mission: customer satisfaction.
Co-ops focus less on whether the traditional cost or benefit analysis yields positive results (such as a Total Resource Cost result greater than one), and instead focus on providing programs that members want. The decision makers for the co-ops are more intent on keeping their members satisfied and dare I say it, happy, rather than getting the absolute biggest bang for the buck.
Co-ops make sure that the program benefits outweigh the costs. However, they use a broader definition of the word benefit. That is where the investor-owned utilities and their regulators, who are both constantly seeking higher customer satisfaction and increased engagement with energy efficiency programs, might benefit from adopting this broader perspective.
According to J.D. Power & Associates, customer satisfaction is higher when customers reported that they are familiar or very familiar with those offerings. And there is value to that customer satisfaction.