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.

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 www.SimpleEnergy.com

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 www.miltonhydro.com

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 www.powerauthority.on.ca

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: www.SimpleEnergy.com.

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: www.WestlyGroup.com. 

TechCrunch: How Obama’s Open Data Order Could Save Lives, Energy Costs And Make Cool Apps.

In a recent article in TechCrunch discussing President Obama’s new executive order which made all government data accessible and machine readable, Gregory Ferenstein mentions Simple Energy’s Customer Engagement Platform as an early example of the benefits of such initiatives. See the full article here.

Ranger Snapshot: Simple Energy By Corey Haggard

Simple Energy designer Corey Haggard was featured in Forrst for his most recent re-design of the simple energy platform. Forrst is a community where developers and designers improve their craft through design feedback and their “Ranger Snapshots” are opportunities to highlight and delve deeper into the some of the most compelling work on the Internet. Check out the interview here

February 11, 2013

National Grid and Simple Energy Team Up to Deliver Advanced, Real-Time Customer Engagement

“The National Grid pilot strives to create the future of energy consumption and conservation using advanced energy solutions. Simple Energy will offer its online and mobile energy-saving game to support community-based smart grid implementation, energy efficiency, and demand response using leading behavioral science and cutting-edge technology.”

January 30, 2013

From Microgrids to Smart Meters, Sempra Pushes Energy Tech

As part of its “Most Connected Companies” series, US News featured Simple Energy customer SDG&E. Highlighting Simple Energy’s work with the utility, US News notes, “Through a partnership with Boulder, Colo.-based Simple Energy, a software company, it held a contest last year in which 200 customers competed via an online game platform to save the most energy. A new contest to debut this summer will encourage customers to compete to save energy on behalf of local middle schools that will vie for cash grants.”

June 12, 2012

The Perfected Self

“At Palo Alto’s storied University Coffee Cafe, I recently found myself sitting next to a young fellow named Yoav Lurie, who turned out to be running a Boulder-based company called Simple Energy, which uses Facebook as a social-reinforcement tool for conserving energy by tracking, sharing, and reinforcing certain behaviors. The product, like many of its competitors in the booming field of energy-related apps, is sponsored by large utility companies incentivized to reduce their reliance on conventional power sources.”

June, 2012

Engaging Customers: After All, They Foot The Bill

In a new article on Intelligent Utility, Phil Carson described a customer engagement panel at Distributech this week in which Charles Dickerson of Pepco Holdings explained the importance of motivating customers to change their behavior in conjunction with new technology deployments. “In fact, a number of utilities across the country are either in talks with or already engaged in pilot demonstrations with Boulder, Colo.-based Simple Energy, which offers a gaming application that injects fun and competition into energy management.”

Pushing the Green Button for Energy Savings

Recently in the New York Times, Simple Energy was featured as an app that can help people in California save energy as part of the White House coordinated Green Button initiative. “The company recently began trials of the game, along with Tendril’s energy monitoring device, with 200 residential energy customers in Texas and the San Diego area. Among San Diego Gas & Electric customers who took part in a three-month energy savings contest last fall, the average monthly savings was 20 percent. The winner, called the Biggest Saver, reduced her energy usage by about 45 percent, according to the company, and won a laptop computer.”