August 16th 2012
What does it really mean to engage a consumer in home energy management?
As someone who interacts with people every day as part of my job at Tendril, I’m on the front lines of consumer engagement. One of the most powerful features of Tendril Energize Online is the ‘Ask an Expert’ tool that makes it possible for consumers to pick the brains of people, like me, who are Tendril energy efficiency experts on a variety of topics.
Think of me as an energy savings coach.
The “Ask an Expert” tool goes hand-in-hand with the other features in Energize Online, which leverage behavioral science and powerful analytics to create an active online learning environment with social support. As people learn more about their energy use, set a savings goal, take weekly energy challenges and receive personalized, recommended energy saving actions, the “Ask an Expert” feature provides a way for them to drill down even more and to ask questions or share their experience with others.
Top Consumer Questions on How to Save Energy?
So what are people most curious about when it comes to saving energy? While I get questions on a wide range of topics, there are three broad areas that generate the most interaction:
- Heating and cooling
- Home electronics (flat screens, laptops, gaming consoles, etc.)
Hands down, lighting generates the most questions. For example:
- “Many of the fixtures in my house are dimmable, are CFLs now available that can be dimmed?”
- “I’m thinking of updating some of my lighting to LEDs, but they seem expensive. Are they worth the price?”
- “What does the color temperature of a bulb mean?”
So what does it mean for keeping consumers engaged?
Despite media attention and government-sponsored campaigns aimed at energy efficiency, consumers still struggle to understand the types of things they can do to become more energy efficient and the potential impact of these changes
People have to learn to crawl before they can run. Small steps and behavior modifications lead to bigger steps and eventually, more control over home energy use. We firmly believe consumer engagement is a journey that starts by empowering people with personalized information about their energy use and what they can do to waste less energy. This seeds the ground to more actively engage them in an ongoing conversation about saving energy and target them with goods, services and pricing programs that meet their needs. This consumer journey makes it possible to addresses their unique situation, goals and needs and connects them more closely to their energy provider and to others in their community who are also learning to save energy.
And when other users can see the expert questions and post about their own experiences not only do they learn, but they can chime in and collaborate, creating a crowdsourcing effect. In many cases, the users themselves become experts and even evangelists, encouraging others in the online community.
By no means is this a one-way street. Even us experts have learned a lot from the questions we receive from consumers, which in turn aids us in designing more tools and information to help them reach their energy savings goals and helps utilities and others—like lightening manufacturers, appliance-makers, HVAC companies, and other energy ecosystem companies better meet the needs of their customers and generate more revenue.
Now that’s consumer engagement at its best.
Emily Weitkamp, Tendril Energize Online “Ask an Expert”
August 7th 2012
One of the most popular features of Tendril Energize Online is the Weekly Challenge— a feature geared towards increasing awareness about energy usage, providing a recommendation to take an action to reduce energy usage, and rewarding action with points for completion of the challenge.
We’ve had a great response to our Weekly Energy Challenges and wanted to share some energy saving recommendations. Saving energy doesn’t always involve a lot of work or a lot of money. Here are five FREE and easy things you can do to save some energy:
1. Unplug your guest room. Go into your guest room or any other room in the house that is seldom used. Unplug anything you find there that doesn’t need to be plugged in when there isn’t a guest– digital clocks, night lights, TVs, etc. These items don’t use a lot of power, but they are always on and pulling a little bit of power. Think of these items like a leaky faucet, a few drips don’t seem like much but can add up to a lot of water if left on long enough!
2. Air-dry one piece of laundry. Dryers use a lot of energy, but they are so convenient it is hard to give them up completely. If you aren’t ready to take the step of air-drying all your laundry, just try taking one item out per load. Take out one shirt or pair of pants and hang them up. Taking this one item out will shorten the time your dryer runs (if you use the auto shut-off mode) and save you just a little energy on each load. Once you are comfortable with one item, see if you can do two or three!
3. Turn off your outdoor lights during the day. Many people leave their outdoor lights on at night for security reasons, but forget to turn them off during the day. Make turning off the outdoor lights part of your morning routine – or even put a reminder in your phone. Better yet, for a small cost you can install motion sensors or timers so you never have to think about turning off the lights again!
4. Use sleep mode on your computer(s). Sleep mode, or power-save mode, on computers is an easy way to cut the power used by these devices. You can typically turn on sleep mode in the “control panel” or “settings” area of your computer. If you have a desktop, make sure you have sleep mode set for both your hard drive and your monitor. And remember, “screen savers” are NOT energy savers. Screen savers are typically not necessary and can use a lot of power. A graphics-heavy screen saver – like the ones that display your family pictures – can use more power than when you are actively using your computer!
5. Unplug your second refrigerator. If you have a second refrigerator that you seldom use or don’t really need, unplug it! Second refrigerators are often old and inefficient, plus, they use power all the time! Many utilities offer free pick-up and disposal of second refrigerators. You can estimate how much money you can save by using this handy calculator from Energy Star. If you REALLY aren’t ready to give up your second refrigerator, look into upgrading to a newer and/or smaller model.
We’ve got a lot of no-cost and low-cost energy saving recommendations in Tendril Energize Online. And what we’re finding is for many people these “low hanging fruit” can return real savings and more importantly, can reinforce their commitment to save energy and money and motivate them to act on even more Weekly Challenges and recommendations.
If you’re interested in learning more about what consumers are doing to save energy, stay tuned…next week I’ll share some insight from our “Ask an Expert” feature in Tendril Energize Online and share the most common questions we receive from consumers.
Emily Weitkamp, Tendril Energize Online, “Ask an Expert”
August 6th 2012
“Enlightened companies seek ambitious individuals who work hard, think big, and crave life-affirming careers, lunchtime bike rides, and soul-expanding travel”
Outside Magazine, 2012 Top 100 Work Places
At Tendril, we are passionate about changing the way the world uses energy. It’s a calling, not a job. We fuel this passion by providing an amazing, collaborative environment that keeps people inspired. As a company we are all committed to building a culture that fuels this inspiration. We’ve been recognized for this commitment by being included on Outside Magazine’s 2012 Best Places to Work list.
We strive to give our employees the tools and time they need to enjoy work and life. Employee initiatives range from the eco and health-minded bike-to-work, lunch hour runs and rides, to the fun and social monthly happy hours. We encourage them to take advantage of Boulder Creek (you can see from the photo that for some, the Creek is part of their commute), plus running and biking trails a few feet from the office, an on-site yoga studio and employee initiatives like the annual Tendril group that climbs a fourteener each summer. We feel these are important activities and amenities that keep everyone energized. Wind-power and recycling programs further our commitment to the environment.
We recognize and appreciate that much of what we offer “outside” our headquarters office is a direct result of where we’re located—beautiful, Boulder, Colorado. Its unparalleled access to outdoors activities, growing reputation as a haven for “foodies” and connection with the University of Colorado are just a few of the things that make it a great place to live and work. It’s no wonder Boulder has been named both the happiest and one of the fittest the towns in the country.
Inside our offices, we invest in our unique and energetic corporate culture. This is possible because we have passionate, smart and fun people (you can read about some of them here). So congrats and thank you to all the employees for making Tendril such a wonderful and rewarding place to work (and play)! And our thanks to Outside Magazine for the kudos.
If Tendril’s “calling” and culture resonate with you, you should consider checking out our open positions. It would be great to have you join us.
Dawn Curlee, Vice President, Human Capital
Endless Summer (of apps) – Tendril Connect-based energy application Xenergy takes home top prize in San Diego Apps Challenge
June 29th 2012
As the summer weather starts heating up, so does the momentum and innovation around energy management apps. Last night, the winners of the San Diego Apps Challenge were named.
We are thrilled that Xenergy, developed by Suhail Wakil using our Tendril Connect platform APIs, took home the title of SDG&E’s (San Diego Gas & Electric) Best Energy App and also received an Honorable Mention for Best Overall App. Congrats Suhail!
The app uses Green Button data from SDG&E and GreenButtonConnect.com (a Green Button app gallery that we created earlier this year that connects utilities, app developers and consumers), to help consumers better understand their energy use. For more on Suhail’s Xenergy app, check out this video .
Xenergy Award Winning App Built Using Tendril Connect APIs
“We have applications that make almost every aspect of our life simpler, so there’s no reason why compelling energy management applications shouldn’t be widely-available as well,” said Suhail. “Being able to taking SDG&E’s Green Button data and unlock its value for consumers with Tendril’s platform worked seamlessly, and is a testament to the potential of Green Button data. We’re really only scratching the surface of what we can do to save energy and the environment with apps, and these challenges are a great way to foster that creativity.”
We loved seeing what Suhail did with the app – it allows you to take your actual energy consumption, on an appliance-specific level, and compare it with what you think the consumption should be. With Suhail’s deceptively simple design, and by leveraging Green Button data from SDG&E and the Tendril Connect platform, consumers can better realize and visualize their energy usage, and begin to modify and save.
Apps like Xenergy are exactly why we opened our platform APIs to third party developers. We’ve long acknowledged that no one (not even us) can predict what the killer app in energy management will be, and the best use of our robust platform was to allow passionate, creative developers, like Suhail, to build new, interesting and engaging apps, that utilities can use to establish a dialogue around energy use with their consumers.
Combine that with the recent momentum we’ve seen on our app program and the around the Green Button, and we’re excited to see what the second half of this year will entail for energy management apps. Some of those milestones include:
- Participating in 5 Cleanweb Hackathons—which in many respects have been ground zero for energy app innovation over the past few months
- Hosting the “Kings of Code Hackbattle,” where one of the winners was a game called “Electric Vampires,” also using our platform
- Establishing GreenButtonConnect.com, a site where consumers can bring their Green Button data and find apps that presents the information in more compelling and more actionable ways
- Less than six months after launching our App Dev program, signing on more than 400 developers, with more than 20 applications built on our platform
- Partnering with Essent (the largest energy company in the Netherlands serving more than 2 million households) in a first-of-its-kind smart energy application crowdsourcing project, a project that gets underway this summer.
If you’re sitting on the next great energy app idea, what are you waiting for? Get started building it today by going to dev.tendrilinc.com to play with our APIs. Consumers and energy providers looking to leverage Green Button data should check out GreenButtonConnect.com—and see what’s already been built to make this data actionable and help you meet your energy efficiency goals. Don’t let this summer of innovation pass you by.
By Tim Breeden, senior director of software development
May 7th 2012
Utilities and energy service providers (ESPs) are spending billions of dollars to provide energy efficiency and demand response programs, energy monitoring devices, smart thermostats, smart meters, and a variety of other tools and programs to their customer base. The benefit to the utility/ESP is improved operational efficiency, better reliability, regulatory compliance, and improved customer satisfaction. Consumers benefit from lower energy bills, a reduced carbon footprint, and greater energy awareness.
However, what if the consumer simply ignores the tools they are given? Recent industry research is proving that is more than often the case. For example, a study last year from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that almost 90 percent of survey participants with “smart” thermostats rarely or never used them.
Utilities and ESPs are well aware of this problem. According to a recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers, 80 percent of North American utilities and 74 percent of European utilities are worried about consumer apathy as an obstacle to getting the full value of smart grid and smart meter investments.
To help our utility and ESP partners, we developed and have launched the Tendril 360 Consumer Marketing Group, a full-service integrated marketing program built to educate, acquire, engage and retain consumers in energy programs.
For something that’s proven a very daunting task, our solution is fairly straightforward:
We begin with a deep dive discovery workshop to understand our clients’ and their customers’ needs, and brainstorm go-to-market strategies. From this, we develop customized marketing plans and campaigns based around a utility or ESP’s specific goals.
Then, our team of specialists analyzes customer databases, and segments consumers into distinct groups based on a number of key demographics and overlays them with Tendril’s proprietary consumer energy segmentation. This detailed breakdown is crucial to not only finding the users with the best chances of enrollment and participation, but also in ensuring long-term engagement by targeting them with the right messages and through the right communications media.
The program takes advantage of our unrivaled energy industry and consumer engagement experience. In fact, we’ve already been doing this work for a while, with proven results delivered at industry leading cost-per-acquisition and response rates. As Katherine Tweed noted in a story last year in Greentech Media:
“One of Tendril’s utility clients wanted to get customers signed up for demand response programs by giving away smart thermostats that people could use to participate. Tendril marketed the exact same product to specific groups using three distinct messages: environmental stewardship, cool new technology, and saving money. The program was oversubscribed before lunchtime on the first day it was available.”
Tendril 360 fits perfectly with our overall philosophy for utilities and ESPs to engage consumers and accelerate them along the “energy value chain.” These campaigns are a crucial starting point in connecting with consumers, not only to ensure program success, but also in establishing a long-term dialogue, to assist with future programs such as demand response, direct load control and eventually, whole home orchestration.
Mike Ruth, Senior Director, Marketing
May 4th 2012
There’s been a palpable shift in the financial buzz surrounding the clean tech industry over the past several weeks. Reports on shrinking venture capital funding, news of several green tech companies pulling their IPOs , and a spate of recent acquisitions, including Efficiency 2.0 being purchased by C3 just this week, have left many questioning the future prospects of clean tech.
It would be easy to read the media coverage and write this off as a course correction for an industry that has been over-hyped, but it’s not that simple. As any veteran of this industry knows, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The huge transformation occurring in the energy industry will take years (just as transformation in the telecom industry did). In order to navigate this transformation, you’ve got to be nimble and you’ve got to be able to commit for the long haul. There are a lot of cautionary tales about underestimating what it takes to survive in this industry. I blogged here last summer about the exit of two tech behemoths from home energy management.
Given the current funding climate, we feel extremely fortunate to have just finalized $25 million in financing, all from our existing investors, who understand the long-term promise of the energy management industry and the patience it requires.
We are using the funding for two key areas of the business—supporting the deployment of our technology at scale with utilities, and continued development of our application developer program.
We believe that the future of the residential energy management industry will be driven by the ability to connect utilities with the rapidly growing ecosystem of energy applications, so that they are able to meet the evolving needs of energy consumers. We are committed to delivering the most compelling consumer engagement technologies, whether homegrown or, as we’re seeing more and more, built by third party partners.
Over the last year Tendril has focused increasingly on making its cloud-based software-as-a service platform available to third party developers, as well as groups focused on government and utility energy initiatives, such as Green Button, designed to foster the creation of energy apps. Today, the Tendril Connect Application Developer program has more than 400 registered app developers around the world. Just last week, we unveiled a partnership with Essent N.V., the largest energy company in the Netherlands serving more than 2 million households, to collaborate on the first-of-its-kind smart energy application crowdsourcing project.
We’ve also continued investing in our platform, refining our building modeling and behavioral science analytics (including acquiring some of these assets from Recurve earlier this year), so that we can enhance our analytics and recommendations engines.
At the same time, the smart grid industry has reached a tipping point, moving from small pilots to larger deployments of residential energy programs. We’ve seen this ourselves as customers including Reliant and others, start to use our solutions at a larger scale.
But it’s not all easy going. We’ve been forced to make some difficult business decisions as we refined our focus. For example, we’ve moved away from producing and relying on largely our own hardware and instead focus on certifying third party hardware from leading vendors like ThinkEco, ecobee and others. We’ve also increasingly begun to sell our technology through channel partners including smart meter companies and energy industry leaders like Lockheed Martin and Siemens Energy.
These changes have made it possible to expand our footprint and increase adoption of our platform. But we’ve also had to make some tough decisions in terms of our structure, staffing, and resourcing. We’ve reduced headcount, but we continue to hire in the software development and product management areas. It’s all part of the growing pains of a maturing company in a maturing industry.
Adrian Tuck, CEO
May 2nd 2012
More exciting news came today from the White House as 6 new utilities and energy suppliers committed to implement the Green Button for their consumers. The Green Button, which provides consumers with their historical electricity usage data in a standardized format, is simple, common sense way for utilities and other energy service provider to connect their consumers to the growing world of energy “apps”.
Tendril is supporting the Green Button by including features that allow any utility using our platform to easily export Green Button-formatted files and any developer to use the data in the applications they build. We also launched GreenButtonConnect.com as an app gallery for consumers.
The results from the developer community continue to impress. Last week in the Netherlands, Tendril partnered with energy retailer Essent (part of the RWE family) in a first-of-its-kind smart energy application crowdsourcing project. In essence, we’ll be working together to create an “apps store” of mobile and web browser-based software for Essent’s customers to use, all built by independent developers. The project got a kick-start at the “Kings of Code Hackbattle,” where one of the winners was a game called “Electric Vampires”. In the game a player is part of a team of vampires that “leach” electricity from homes in a village, but to do so, the players are actually reducing the electricity use in their own homes.
Back here in the United States, Tendril sponsored a “Big Hack” competition between students from Stanford and Cal. One of the winners, called “Alistair McFridge”, created a Facebook page where a house can post responses to home automation commands. Apps like these are exactly the kind of innovative first steps that tools like the Green Button are enabling and that will only get more connected to the ways we use energy at home. We’re looking forward to seeing more in coming weeks from other contests like the DOE’s “Apps for Energy” Challenge and the upcoming Cleanweb Hackathon in Boulder.
The high level of interest we have seen in the developer community reinforces the observations made recently by Sunil Paul and Nick Allen in MIT’s Technology Review that the clean tech industry is ripe for disruption by information technology.
It also comes at a time when regulators are going to oversee new investments reaching over $2 trillion into our electric system, a report released last week by Ceres estimates. This investment will come at the same time that the number of “connected” devices will explode from an estimated 2.5 billion today (things like sensors and GPS trackers) to over 100 billion in the next few years.
Regulators like the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, who are confronted with the massive investment challenges cited in the Ceres report, are seizing the opportunity to harness rapidly changing technology innovations for the benefit of consumers and applauding utilities’ adoption of the Green Button. Today’s announcements continue this exciting and transformational trend.
Cameron Brooks, VP, Policy