2017 CLEAR Award Winner Spotlight: Fort Collins Utilities

On Monday, Jan. 30 at the 2017 Consumer Symposium, SGCC announced the three winners of its 2017 CLEAR Awards, which recognize one technology vendor, utility and nonprofit organization for their dedication to consumer engagement and education around smart energy. Throughout March, SGCC will feature online profiles on each winner.

About Fort Collins Utilities:
Fort Collins Utilities provides safe, reliable and affordable electric service to over 70,500 homes and businesses throughout more than 55 square miles in Fort Collins, Colorado. Located 65 miles north of Denver on the Colorado Front Range, the city is Colorado’s fourth most populous. Fort Collins Utilities operates and maintains one of the most reliable electric distribution systems in the country, which is over 99 percent underground. They also install and maintain the city’s streetlight system (11,000+ streetlights throughout the community) and ten electric vehicle charging stations.

About Peak Partners:
Fort Collins Utilities is committed to providing its customers proven and innovative ways to save energy. The utility believes that the power of the individual in conservation makes a big difference in protecting Fort Collins’ quality of life and environmental health, now and for generations to come.

One of these energy-saving methods is Peak Partners, an integrated demand response and energy efficiency program. Fort Collins Utilities provides program participants with WiFi-enabled “smart” thermostats and two-way communicating load control switches for water heaters to help customers save money, and in turn, reduce peak usage.

The program is open to all customers with air conditioners and/or electric water heaters. Fort Collins Utilities installs the devices for free and provides home and mobile applications that let customers track usage and make adjustments. The mobile application includes a customer engagement portal the utility uses to send energy efficiency tips to customers.

Fort Collins Utilities’ customers are at the center of the program, as evidenced by the utility’s use of yearly customer survey data to guide and prioritize new features for the portal. As an example, the utility overhauled the thermostat-scheduling interface when it became clear that most users – more than 80 percent – were using it from a mobile device. The tool was originally designed for use on a desktop with a mouse but was modified to work best on a phone screen instead of a laptop.

Another example is the customer engagement portal, which was originally a website. After receiving substantial feedback on the preference for the portal as an app, Fort Collins Utilities and its technology vendor, Comverge, redesigned the software that now will be delivered as a native app in 2017 for iOS and Android.

Fort Collins Utilities has used demand response programs for decades. When designing Peak Partners, the utility decided to include integrated energy efficiency capabilities. As one of the first utilities to combine these concepts, Fort Collins Utilities is able to deliver an improved customer experience and enjoy increased customer participation and engagement in long-term energy management and conservation programs. Additionally, the utility is able to more efficiently and effectively reduce peak load to maintain reliability.

Fort Collins Utilities continues to innovate with new customer-facing programs and incorporates customer engagement strategies to ensure the programs are adopted by customers. Efficiency Works – Home is an example of such a program. It provides residential customers significantly discounted energy and water audits, efficiency adviser services and installation of energy and water saving products to help them reduce costs and increase the comfort of their homes.

To make the program even more cost effective, Fort Collins Utilities worked with other Colorado utilities to reduce program administration costs. Utilities also offers the Home Efficiency Loan Program, which makes financing solar, water conservation and energy efficiency projects easier than ever.

Peak Partners has more than 4,000 total participants, including half of all electric water heaters in Fort Collins Utilities’ service area. Customers are interacting with the thermostat portal at least once every week and program satisfaction levels are in the 80th percentile. More importantly, 75 percent of program participants would recommend the program to a friend.

For its commitment to providing its customers proven and innovative ways to save energy, SGCC is honored to select Fort Collins Utilities as the 2017 CLEAR Award winner in the utility category.

For more information about this CLEAR Award winner, visit www.fcgov.com/utilities and www.peakpartnersfortcollins.com and connect with them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.