Learnings from California’s Market Transformation Programs

Balancing government, industry and consumer needs

California has gained significant positive results with sustainable energy incentive programs with record numbers of consumers going solar and driving more electric vehicles. Some of what CSE has learned in helping to drive such clean energy initiatives can help local government agencies to shape successful clean energy programs throughout California and across the country.

In any carefully designed sustainability program, it’s a public-private partnership between consumers, industry players and policymakers at various levels that sets the framework for market growth. Programs should be designed to accelerate the market and not restrict it. This can be a delicate balance, for effective programming will keep consumer protection and industry standards and best practices at a high level while providing flexible resources for program participants as markets scale and evolve.

At CSE, our partnerships have incorporated education and long-term outreach that give stability to incentive programs and the related energy marketplace while providing adjustability and feedback for agencies and officials. We’ve learned that such programs provide a means to better understand the motivations and actions of consumers in decisions to purchase sustainable technologies and how this information can support industry as they market and drive demand for their services.

Training & mentoring of industry pros

An important thing to recognize with sustainable energy programs is that they should be industry driven. This doesn’t mean the interests of industry are put above the consumer or government entities, but instead is a nod to the fact that the end result is a product and involves a contractor, for solar or energy upgrades, or a salesperson, for electric vehicles, to ultimately close the deal. We’ve found that training and mentoring of industry professionals are critical factors in any successful sustainable energy initiative.

For energy efficiency, we have created opportunities for contractors working in various trade areas to concentrate specifically on whole-home performance and energy rating. In the solar industry, we have worked with state agencies and trade associations to establish installation standards and contractor eligibility training. When it came to electric vehicles, we found that manufacturers gave few resources to dealerships beyond information on specific models, so we created EV educational materials, workshops and webinars for sales staff. These types of efforts provide long-term support and stability to the energy market and help the industries to meet government objectives, in addition to their own revenue growth targets.

Consumer awareness & feedback

Equally important to sustainable energy program success is helping consumers connect the dots – to understand what is significant and applicable to them. The goal is to assure consumers get the highest quality information, through marketing, educational workshops, webinars and community outreach. For many programs, it is critical to have a call center where people can ask questions and talk with an individual. Administrators need to be as transparent as possible with program information.

A final part of a successful sustainability program partnership is using the experiences and lessons learned to provide feedback to the government officials and agencies that fund and manage the programs. This direct understanding of how consumers and industry interact and participate in programs helps decision-makers evaluate current programs and policies while assuring overall goals are met.

We're here to assist local governments

Often, these kind of qualitative aspects of sustainable energy incentive programs are overlooked, but in fact, are critical to the success of every program. From our vantage point, we see how education and market development fit together as we move forward toward a clean energy future.

We invite government officials to check out our program offerings and contact us about ways to maximize the impacts of your local and regional sustainable energy market development initiatives.

Jack Clark's picture
November 24, 2014 - 00:00 -- Jack Clark