Previous blogs discussed proper introduction of Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) solutions and In-Home Displays (IHDs) into residential consumer homes.   While these solutions hold great promise to help consumers save money and the environment through participation in energy conservation and energy efficiency programs, the development of a Consumer Enlightenment Model is absolutely critical to successful adoption and participation.  The support model is an important component of the overall Consumer Enlightenment Model to ensure the ongoing participation by residential consumers. 

I study HEMS solutions and always ask the HEMS manufacturers about the support model.  There is remarkable unanimity in their assertions that the utilities will take the first support calls – for HEMS web portal software and for IHDs.  The HEMS providers are confident that their solutions are so easy to use that support is quantified as a nominal increase in support calls.  Some of them go to great pains to develop friendly user interfaces.  But I have marketed, sold, and deployed many software applications in my career, and what is “a nominal increase in support calls” to a vendor may be dramatic increases in call volumes to utility customer contact centers.    

Regardless of the success of the introduction of a HEMS solution and associated IHDs, if the support model is inadequate, the end result will be frustrated ratepayers, lagging participation in crucial Demand Response and other energy conservation and energy efficiency programs, and more utility time and expense to fix these problems. 

Utilities that offer HEMS solutions to their customers need to include software and hardware support of the HEMS solution and IHDs into their Consumer Enlightenment Model.  Bring in consulting professionals with experience in contact centers, software support, and emerging technology introductions who are knowledgeable about Demand Response and Energy Efficiency programs.  Work with them to develop a fully integrated Consumer Enlightenment Model that aligns with utility objectives to reduce overall energy use during peak and non-peak times and manages not only the introduction, but the ongoing support of visible, disruptive, and extremely important HEMS solutions and their IHDs. 

Feds Step Up Enforcement of Appliance Reporting Standards

Energy efficiency was proclaimed to be “sexy” by President Obama just last week, and the days of lax enforcement of energy efficiency standards are thankfully at an end.  The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that January 8, 2010, is the deadline for manufacturers of certain residential products to submit accurate certification reports and compliance statements regarding energy efficiency.  A 30 day grace period lets the slackers correct their non-compliance without penalty. 

After January 8th, the DOE will begin enforcing these reporting requirements, including leveling civil penalties or fines for non-compliance. This covers reporting and certification requirements – not the actual energy efficiency standards, which are already subject to scrutiny by DOE.  The requirements include a certification report for each basic appliance model covered by the energy standards, along with a signed compliance statement.  You can access the DOE press release and fact sheet, and for even more info, here is the Web site for DOE’s Appliances and Commercial Equipment Standards Program.   To all the appliance manufacturers that have been playing by the rules all along, kudos to you.  To those manufacturers who treated the rules cavalierly, the playing field just got leveled.