Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) has grown significantly and evolved since its initial customer launch in October 2016. The PCE audience/customer base, totaling nearly 300,000 residential and commercial electricity customers within the 20 cities and towns of San Mateo County, is comprised of a broad, multi-cultural, very diverse demographic constituents. While its overall mission and strategic goals remain the same (i.e. to provide clean, renewable, greenhouse gas-free electricity to the residents of San Mateo County), PCE is now entering the next phase of company evolution.
The initial launch was focused on introduction of PCE’s primary product, ECOplus (50% renewable), to residents/businesses and encouraging them to stay with PCE. That launch was highly successful having only 2.4% of the enrolled customers opting out of PCE’s service offering. Now, we would like to develop a robust marketing strategy and determine what key objectives make sense as we expand our offerings.
PCE seeks a Consultant with experience and success in developing a marketing strategy for organizations like PCE that incorporates plans and actions as we evolve from a start-up organization to a more established organization. In collaboration with PCE’s staff, the successful Consultant will help to develop a comprehensive 3-year marketing strategy and implementation plan targeted at:
• Electricity Product Mix:
o Evaluating the value of working to boost voluntary participation in ECO100 product offering
o Determining a strategy to transition our ECOplus product offering to an eventual 100% renewable offering no later than 2025
o Determining a product differentiation strategy, if appropriate, for ECO100 as th transition of ECOplus to 100% renewable takes place
• Maximizing and maintaining customer participation with PCE, including maintaining low opt-out rates by new/existing customers
• Evaluating the value and possible approaches to increasing PCE brand awareness and customer loyalty
• New Program Offerings: Encouraging significant participation in multiple, far-reaching programs o Targeted for residential customers (e.g. EV rebates, building electrification
o Targeted for commercial customers (e.g. installing workplace EV infrastructure, energy storage)
o Targeted for municipal and non-profit customers (e.g. installing workplace EV infrastructure, energy storage, microgrids, resilience)
• Implementing a robust PR strategy to inform stakeholders of PCE’s activities, and to enhance local, regional, state, and national exposure
• Evaluation of existing community outreach/communication strategies and activities to determine needs for expansion or changes to meet the changing landscape of customer needs
The above objectives are expected to be met by activities and strategies in a variety of areas.
Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), a community choice energy (CCE) aggregator, is San Mateo County’s official electricity provider. Formed in February 2016, PCE is a joint powers authority, consisting of the County of San Mateo and all twenty of its towns and cities. PCE provides cleaner and greener electricity, and at lower rates, than the incumbent investor-owned utility (IOU), Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). PCE plans for and secures commitments from a diverse portfolio of energy-generating resources to reliably serve the electric energy requirements of its customers over the near-, mid-, and long-term planning horizons. PCE’s programs include advancing the adoption of electric vehicles and transitioning building fossil fuel uses to low-carbon electricity. For more information on PCE, please go to www.peninsulacleanenergy.com.
As part of its mission-driven, collaborative, not-for-profit, locally-focused roots, PCE is committed to the following set of strategic goals:
1. Design a diverse power portfolio that is greenhouse gas free.
• 100% GHG free by 2021
• sourced by 100% CA RPS eligible renewable energy by 2025 on a time coincident basis, provided it is economically viable
• create a minimum of 20 MWs of new local power by 2025
2. Continually strive to offer ECOPlus at rates that are lower than PG&E rates provided it is economically viable.
3. Stimulate the development of new renewable energy generation and storage projects in San Mateo County and California through PCE’s procurement activities.
4. Demonstrate quantifiable economic and environmental justice benefits to the County/region including by placing a priority on local hiring and inclusionary workforce development practices with a goal of increasing diversity.
5. Implement programs to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the county’s community-wide efforts to be completely GHG-free by 2045 by investing in electric transportation, energy efficiency and demand response, and partnering effectively with municipalities, business, schools, and nonprofit/faith organizations.
6. Maximize and maintain customer participation in PCE.
• Provide a superior customer experience
• Develop PCE brand awareness and loyalty throughout the County.
• Actively encourage voluntary participation in its ECO100 renewable energy product
• Actively encourage participation in other programs PCE develops
• Achieve recognition as an EPA Green Power Community for all cities and towns in San Mateo County and EPA Green Power Partnership for all cities with municipal accounts enrolled in ECO100 by 2018
7. Build a financially sustainable organization.
• Build sufficient reserves in a rate stabilization fund
• Achieve an investment grade credit rating by 2021
8. Foster a work environment that espouses sustainable business practices and cultivates a culture of innovation, diversity, transparency, integrity, and commitment to the organization’s mission and the communities it serves.
9. Leverage Peninsula Clean Energy/Silicon Valley expertise and relationships to support innovation across all of PCE’s programs and activities.
10. Assist in setting up CCAs in other areas of the state, including where PCE has utility scale generation.
Scope of Work:
Sample Focus Areas and Open Questions
The following areas have been identified as important within the organization. However, PCE is also interested in the consultant’s assessment and suggestions on what other areas of focus should be investigated in this marketing strategy development effort.
• Product Transition from ECOplus to ECO100
Increased participation in the ECO100 product by residential and commercial customers requires an active action to “opt-up” by each customer. The current participation rate is very low and represents an opportunity to make faster progress toward PCE’s long-term environmental goals.
Success in increasing participation in the two large customer classes will require significant resources for promotional and marketing strategies. However, questions remain about the cost/benefit of investing significant PCE resources when the long-term goal is to deliver 100% renewable energy by 2025.
• Brand Awareness
Despite PCE’s low opt-out rate of 2.4% and corresponding 97.6% market share, market research conducted a year ago indicated that only 3% of our customers could name PCE as an option for buying their electricity when not prompted. And, 44% were totally unaware of PCE.
Ensuring that more customers understand that PCE is a mission-driven, non-profit, public agency may increase trust and loyalty. However, questions remain about the optimal way(s) to deliver this message and the cost-benefit implications of a broad, brand awareness campaign except in the context of other objectives.
• Residential Customers
o Customer Care
PCE desires to provide a superior customer experience for customer service. That service is largely provided to residential customers through a trained, outsourced call center to answer questions about electricity charges that also provides similar services to other CCAs. To date, very few customers have taken advantage of that call center for a variety of reasons including the lack of understanding about their electricity charges, limited knowledge by customers that PCE is their electricity provider, and lack of needs/questions for which services might be needed (e.g. programs).
Strategic questions remain as to what services that customer care will/should provide. Answers will drive how to best structure customer care/interaction including whether to bring such service in-house and/or whether to provide broader services (e.g. clean energy “lifestyle”) advice.
o Residential Energy Programs
PCE is developing a range of programs to advance the clean energy goals of PCE and the community. These include promoting electric vehicles, transitioning to electric appliances, implementing storage systems, and strategic energy efficiency programs.
While in most cases the product is well defined (EVs, storage, etc.), the approaches to successfully marketing and engaging residents can vary dramatically. However, an overall marketing strategy needs to be developed, including positioning, target markets, and PCE’s role as a trusted expert.
• Large Commercial Customers
Commercial customers are an important customer group comprising less than 10% of PCE’s overall customer base while generating approximately two-thirds of PCE’s annual electricity generation revenues. Given their operating nature, the electricity demand is more stable throughout the year and more predictable throughout the day.
As a result of the above dynamics, it is imperative to PCE’s continued success to maintain these customers. Large customers have more options and ability to procure energy from other, direct sources. PCE has invested in staff to support the Top 100 customers by providing a directcontact and support for customer service. However, questions remain about how to best engage with such customers and how best to provide incentives/encouragement, program enhancements, and/or contract options to stay with and/or expand service with PCE over the long-term.
• PR Strategy
To raise awareness locally and regionally, PCE has engaged a PR consultant to reach the local, trade, and regional press. Regular press releases have been issued and a handful of organizations contact PCE for information. However, reference to PCE is not at the level it could be based on PCE’s achievements to date. Enhanced strategies to better reach the larger community of stakeholders and industry press are needed.
• Community Outreach & Engagement
To help raise awareness among, and build trust and local community goodwill, PCE has participated in numerous community events where the general public already congregates. These informal opportunities have enabled PCE to connect with their constituents while raising PCE’s awareness.
Participation in local, community-oriented events are believed to be important in spreading the word about PCE and its local, non-profit mission especially to low-income and non-English speaking constituent groups. PCE deepens relationships with community groups through outreach grants, sponsorships, and participation in regional environmental networks and coalitions of nonprofits to better inform and align PCE programs to increase effectiveness and build a sense of “community ownership” with PCE as a local, representative service provider. However, questions remain about the effort required and the overall brand awareness and loyalty that is generated versus other outreach efforts.
• Website and Social Media
PCE’s website (www.PeninsulaCleanEnergy.com) will continue to serve as the central source of information for, and access to, PCE. All customer-facing materials distributed to date has and will continue to direct customers to visit the website. Based on the very diverse customer demographics, web content (and print collateral) will continue to be provided in Spanish and Chinese translations.
PCE also dedicates resources to providing information about activities through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It is believed that these activities are reaching a large audience and helping to inform the community about PCE.
With priorities shifting to building trust, establishing legitimacy, and highlighting PCE as a non- profit organization with the community’s best interest at heart, the website must reflect those priorities. However, given PCE’s organizational evolution to a provider of innovative programs, questions remain about the effectiveness of the website and the brand message that is conveyed. Additionally, questions remain about the impact of social media and whether current approaches are achieving the desired outcome.