Gamification for Utilities: Captivating Customers with Energy Information

Whenever I plan a trip to an energy conference, such as tomorrow’s Emerging Technologies Summit, I end up entering  my frequent flier information as part of the booking. And when that happens, I’m reminded of how airline miles programs have become a huge part of booking travel. Some people spend hours every week playing the miles and points game to maximize their rewards balances – and nearly every frequent traveler participates in at least one airline points program. It does make traveling a bit more fun and rewarding.

The same concept applies to energy. Think about it. Which of these options sounds more appealing? Option A: Reducing your energy usage to conserve energy; or option B:  Reducing your energy usage to conserve energy and being entered to win an iPad Mini, as well as receiving reward points that can be accumulated and redeemed for gift cards. Option B is a no brainer. This concept is known as gamification – the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems, and it’s something every company can leverage in their customer engagement strategies.

Take this study as an example: The University of Washington designed a game that burn wound victims play while they go through painful treatments, and clinical trials showed that game play sharply reduced patients’ pain levels and anxiety, and that it was more effective than morphine. That’s right – just playing a well-designed game was engaging enough that it reduced pain more than morphine.

Another example: Stanford University’s virtual reality lab, VHIL, set up a virtual reality game where research patients were given a chainsaw to cut down trees. After participants experienced cutting down a virtual tree, they used 20% less paper products compared to participants who simply read a print description of deforestation. The interactive, virtual experience drove internalized, sustained behavior change. These examples show how incredibly absorbing and engaging games can be.

So how are we at Simple Energy using gamification? As part of our platform, we analyze customers’ energy consumption, account, and publicly available data and transform that data into points, rankings, and rewards. The data morphs from numbers and graphs that appeal to one already-engaged segment of the population to a compelling experience that attracts and engages many segments. One in which customers are empowered to change their behavior, track their progress and receive rewards. And the best part – it is not only fun, it produces real impact.

Our results: a less than 0.1% unsubscribe rate from our weekly emails, 30-40% of customers opening the emails every week, 65% of customers reporting learning helpful energy-saving tips, and energy efficiency results 2-3 times higher than other programs.   One example: customers who signed up for demand response alerts with rewards messaging reduced energy use during peak periods by an average of 10x compared to default messaging.

As these studies show, there is an incredible amount of power in play. Companies are constantly looking for ways to increase their customers’ engagement, motivate their customers to take action, and engage a broad range of people – and it’s critical to include gamification as part of an engagement strategy.

I’ll be speaking more on gamification for utilities at the Emerging Technologies Summit in San Francisco tomorrow, October 21st at 12pm. Hope to see you there!

If you’d like to learn more about gamification and how it can impact energy usage, there’s much more information here.

Dinosaurs, corporations, and the changing utility business model.

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How to explain gaps in a fossil record? The theory of punctuated equilibrium – first proffered by paleontologists Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould in 1972 in response to a puzzling absence of transitory dinosaur fossils – suggests that evolution does not occur gradually over long periods of time (phyletic gradualism). Rather, punctuated equilibrium holds that species exhibit long periods of little or no change (stasis), followed by rapid, dramatic evolutionary change in response to environmental stressors.

Whether you buy the biology or not, there are strong historical paradigms that make the case for punctuated equilibrium as an industry and business reality – think the longstanding dominance and subsequent painful bankruptcy of Kodak in the digital age or the rapid decline of Akron’s tire makers (Firestone, Uniroyal, and B.F. Goodrich) in the face of new radial technology. What ought to be troubling for observers is that none of the aforementioned firms responded to changes in their business environments by doing nothing. Rather, their response was (understandably) a recommitment to those commercial practices which had made them successful in the past, and it was precisely that response that killed them. The very formulas which had enabled their fortune in prior years blinded them to the need for transformative change.

As a counter example, consider the telephone industry – in response to the introduction of new technology (cell phones) which posed a significant risk to their business, traditional providers pivoted to launch and grow their cellular business while shrinking their landline investments.

No mental gymnastics required to guess where this is headed. Utilities in the US and abroad are facing a new business environment: increasingly liberalized markets, new technology entrants, and dismal customer relationships (according to a recent Accenture study, less than one quarter of consumers trust their utilities).

Like the tire makers and Kodak, their response to date has been to repeat the strategies of years past: cut operational costs, use regulatory dollars on short-sighted programs, and extend their contracts with the same vendors that have produced consistent (albeit low) results. Given the industry’s appetite for risk, it’s not surprising that utilities look to precedent (their own, or their peers’) rather than innovate.

Environmental stressors abound: Barclays’ downgrade of electric utility bonds, falling demand, and the rise of distributed generation all underscore the problem with sticking to tried and true strategies. The commercial outlook for traditional investor-owned utilities is dim, but not apocalyptic. On the contrary – large-scale change in the utility business environment provides the opportunity to build more customer-centric (and ultimately more profitable) utility companies. Forward-leaning utilities – the ones that will survive in the brave new world – will look to fundamentally transform their relationships with their most important commercial asset: their customers.
Ready to transform your customer relationships? So are we. Get in touch at

By Lilly Skolnik

Milton Hydro Is Partnering With Simple Energy To Drive Energy Conservation Through Community Engagement

Boulder, CO (July 14, 2014) – Milton Hydro, in partnership with Simple Energy, will deliver a social benchmarking program to residential customers in Milton, Ont., beginning later this July. Funded by the Ontario Power Authority’s Conservation Fund, the Milton Community Energy Challenge will demonstrate how a community engagement program can deliver behaviour-based energy conservation. Customers who choose to participate will earn rewards for reducing their household energy use. They will also be able to help local schools win up to $10,000 in awards by joining a school challenge team.

“We value our relationships with customers and view them as an important resource for Milton Hydro. We want to offer the community a behaviour-based energy conservation program that goes beyond the status quo,” said Frank Lasowski, President & CEO of Milton Hydro. “Simple Energy shares in our vision and will partner with us to deliver the Milton Community Energy Challenge. We selected Simple Energy as a partner because of their ability to provide a digital solution that uses relevant messaging and engaging software services that will help our customers make sense of their energy usage, save more and enjoy doing so.”

Customers who enroll in the Milton Community Energy Challenge will receive weekly Energy Insight reports delivered to their email addresses. Energy Insight reports will help customers to better understand their household energy use with unique insights based on smart meter data and usage comparisons to similar households. The Milton Community Energy Challenge will offer deeper engagement online using Simple Energy software. Here participants will be able to track their household energy use, view school challenge team rankings, earn badges, complete energy saving tips for additional reward points, and redeem earned points for rewards. Reward points can be redeemed for gift cards, similar to credit card company rewards programs.

“The Ontario Power Authority is pleased to support this unique benchmarking program, and we encourage all Milton residents to participate in the Community Energy Challenge,” says Colin Andersen, CEO of the Ontario Power Authority. “The Conservation Fund is designed to help implement innovative ideas just like this one, to help us move conservation forward across Ontario. We congratulate Milton Hydro for taking a leadership role and participating in new conservation initiatives, and we look forward to the results of this pilot program.”

The Milton Community Energy Challenge will encourage elementary schools in Milton to compete for up to $10,000 in awards for the schools that educate and motivate parents, students, and teachers to save the most energy in their homes. When customers register to participate in the program they will be able to join the school challenge team of their choice.

The program will also support Milton Hydro in achieving its Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) targets. “We have already achieved major results from energy saving programs with utilities all over North America, and plan to replicate that success in our partnership with Milton Hydro” said Yoav Lurie, CEO and founder of Simple Energy.

About Simple Energy
Simple Energy’s software as a service (“SaaS”) digital marketing platform uses behavioral science, big data analytics, and digital marketing techniques to change how people save energy and how utilities engage their customers. Located in Boulder, Colorado, Simple Energy is currently partnering with top tier utility customers across North America. Simple Energy is making energy efficiency fun, social, and rewarding. For more information visit

About Milton Hydro
Milton Hydro Distribution Inc. is a local distribution company, which is responsible for distributing electricity to more than 34,000 business and residential customers within the Town of Milton. Milton Hydro Distribution Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Milton Hydro Holdings Inc., whose sole shareholder is the Town of Milton. Milton Hydro has been providing safe, reliable, and affordable electricity service for nearly a century. For more information visit

About the OPA
The Ontario Power Authority is responsible for ensuring a reliable, sustainable supply of electricity for Ontario. Its key areas of focus are planning the power system for the long term, leading and coordinating conservation initiatives across the province, and ensuring development of needed generation resources. The Conservation Fund supports new and innovative electricity conservation initiatives, to help Ontario’s residents, businesses and institutions cost-effectively reduce their demand for electricity. For more information visit

Investor-owned utilities are going online for public support

We Stand For Energy“, an internet-based media campaign, recently launched to help build support among the public and policymakers for a projected $90 billion spend by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) on grid modernization, cleaner energy resources, energy efficiency and more. By encouraging dialogue through the “We Stand For Energy” online campaign, IOUs hope to make the case for investment more transparent to their customers and regulators.

At Simple Energy we’ve seen that online interactions are a valuable tool for community building, providing interactive education, and motivating people to take action. An online engagement campaign is “a natural progression for an industry that is undergoing such a major transformation,” said Brian Wolff, executive vice president of public policy and external affairs for the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). We couldn’t agree more.

Read more at EE News.

Simple Energy gets $6 million in investor funds to expand

Westly Group invests in energy engagement platform to expand product offering and national reach

BOULDER, Colo., Jan. 28, 2014 — Simple Energy announced that it closed $6 million in a Series B funding round led by the Westly Group. As part of the round, Westly Group’s Founder and Managing Partner, Steve Westly will be joining Simple Energy’s Board of Directors.

“We have already achieved major results from energy saving programs with utilities all over North America,” said Yoav Lurie, CEO and co-founder of Simple Energy. “This round of funding and the addition of Steve to our board will fuel Simple Energy’s development of new products due out in 2014, expand our national reach, and further refine our micro-targeted messaging to customers to motivate them to save energy.”

Simple Energy offers utility companies an innovative and effective digital marketing software as a service (“SaaS”) platform that engages customers and drives energy savings. Simple Energy’s platform helps customers understand their energy use with actionable insights and compelling motivations based on behavioral science. The platform normalizes customer’s energy usage, allowing participants to compare with friends, neighbors and colleagues. In addition, customers can earn points, rewards, and gift cards by saving energy.

“Simple Energy has built the leading SaaS platform for utilities who want to engage their customers,” said Steve Westly. “We have spoken to many utilities — from major investor-owned utilities seeking mandated energy efficiency results, to competitive utilities focused on customer acquisition — and they all have a critical need to more deeply engage their consumers. The successful utilities in the future will be consumer-centric in a way the industry has never been before –and we believe those utilities will use Simple Energy.”

The Westly Group is led by Steve Westly, who was formerly the Controller and Chief Fiscal Officer of the state of California. Prior to his work with the state, Westly served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing, Business Development, M&A and International for eBay. He currently serves on the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board as a representative for the venture capital industry. The Westly Group’s portfolio includes Tesla Motors, RecyleBank, cleanWell, Honest Buildings, Lunera Lighting and others.

About Simple Energy 

Simple Energy uses behavioral science, big data analytics, and digital marketing techniques to change how people save energy and how utilities engage their customers. Simple Energy’s software as a service (“SaaS”) digital marketing platform engages utility customers and drives energy savings. Participants in Simple Energy programs compare their real energy usage with friends and neighbors, earn prizes for saving energy, and become more engaged energy consumers. Simple Energy is making energy efficiency social, fun, and simple.

For more information visit:

About Westly Group 

The Westly Group is dedicated to building companies that will solve the world’s most pressing problems. From next generation electric vehicles to healthy school meals, we invest in exceptional teams scaling transformative technologies and business models. We believe in the power of the passionate entrepreneur — whether sitting in a modern office tower or a Silicon Valley garage — to change the world.

The Westly Group is one of the larger clean tech venture firms in the US. The company is located in Menlo Park and has offices in Beijing. The company has had four companies go public on the NASDAQ.

For more information visit: 

San Diego Energy Challenge gets a shout-out at DistribuTECH 2013

DistribuTECH is an annual utilities conference and expo that attracted 10,000 attendees to San Diego this winter. Simple Energy’s Bud Vos and Andew Dietrich were excited to be among them and even more excited to hear Mike Niggli, CEO of San Diego Gas and Electric, give a shout out to our joint project with the utility, The San Diego Energy Challenge, in his keynote address. He spoke about SDG&E’s current smart grid efforts and the exciting possibilities for the future of smart grid utilities.

SDG&E and Simple Energy Challenge San Diego Families to Save Energy


Since June 2012, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) customers have been participating in the San Diego Energy Challenge and saving energy to win prizes for themselves and help their favorite San Diego Unified School District middle schools win valuable cash grants. Together they have encouraged over 3,900 people to participate in the Energy Challenge on behalf of 39 middle schools who are competing for a generous $10,000 grand prize.

Simple Energy and SDG&E are partnered to bring this innovative program San Diego residents to empower customers with energy usage information at home. The program leverages the Simple Energy Customer Engagement Platform to engage customers and deliver measurable and verifiable energy efficiency, demand side management, and smart grid results through cutting edge behavioral science techniques. Continue reading

Delmarva Power and Simple Energy Challenge Customers to Save Energy for Schools

Delmarva Power recently launched the Delmarva Energy Challenge, a pilot program, to 56,000 eligible residential customers in Wilmington, DE.  The Energy Challenge is an energy saving game that gives customers a fun way to compete with their friends and neighbors to save energy and win prizes for themselves as well as their favorite Wilmington, Delaware, K‐12 public school.

Customers that play on behalf of their favorite Wilmington school can help them win prizes ranging from $2,500 -­‐ $10,000 by encouraging others to sign up and save energy.  Individuals can also win prizes for themselves for saving energy in their homes such as gift cards and tablet computers.

“We are thrilled to bring this innovative new program to our customers,” said, Charles Dickerson, program architect and Vice President of Performance Management and Support Services. “This is one of the first programs of its kind, combining social gaming and the customer’s desire to make a difference.  When customers play, they will obtain valuable energy saving information to help them reduce their usage which in turn can lead to amazing incentives for the whole community.”

Delmarva Power partnered with Simple Energy to bring customers the Energy Challenge platform, where they can monitor their energy usage online and compete with friends to save energy. The Simple Energy platform helps users to understand their energy use with actionable insights and an easy points system that scores them against their friends. It normalizes customer’s energy usage, allowing participants to compete with their friends — similar to a golf handicap.

Continue reading

Simple Energy hires new COO Bud Vos, formerly of Comverge

Today in Boulder, Simple Energy announced that Bud Vos has joined the team as the company’s new chief operating officer, bringing over 15 years of experience driving rapid growth and innovative product strategy for leading smart grid companies. This strategic hire is the latest in a series of developments positioning Simple Energy to become an industry leader in utility customer engagement programs that leverage the power of behavioral economics and social networks to motivate energy savings. Continue reading