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Starting an Energy Outreach (T&E) Program in California

Energy efficiency offers entrepreneurial opportunities for outreach, training and education to support utility companies and statewide energy programs.

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FIRST: Know the System (and Players)

"The California Standard Offer Program For Energy Efficiency"

The WEM/SESCO Coalition developed an education, outreach program to businesses and consumers through which multiple non-IOU entities administer energy efficiency programs by overseeing a continuous "standard offer program".

The system is modeled after the structure of an outreach program in Texas.

Under the WEM/SESCO Coalition proposal,

  • Program implementers would only get paid after the measures are installed and verified through field inspections conducted by EM&V contractors.
  • Savings per measure are based on "deemed" estimates, i.e., on engineering data or load impact studies, without on-site testing or metering.

Here's how the standard offer program would work:

Implementation of an Energy Incentives Program

The program implementer approaches residential customers in a specific geographic area to install measures. The type of measures to be installed is the decision between the energy service provider and the customer. The incentive typically does not cover the full cost of the measures that are installed, and the customer usually must make a contribution. The level of the contribution is also between the customer and the program implementer.

Typically, projects for residential customers involve insulating homes or upgrading heating or cooling systems.

The standard offer (incentives) program includes a list of measures with associated "deemed" savings, and the program implementer is credited those savings once that particular installation (or a sample of the installations of that implementer) has been inspected. After that occurs, assuming that the inspector finds the measures to be installed properly, the program implementer receives a payment for the credited savings based on a percentage of avoided costs.

Who are the players of this incentives outreach program in California? An additional 15 organizations and businesses indicated their support of this incentives proposal, including PacifiCorp, Alliance to Save Energy, Association of California Energy Efficiency Contractors, Institute of Heating and Air Conditioning Industries, The New Buildings Institute and League of California Homeowners, along with several private energy service providers.

Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs)

AB 117 Community Choice Aggregation

AB 117: Local Government Commission: Energy Information Clearinghouse.

AB 117, permits any city, county or city and county to aggregate the electric loads of residents, businesses and municipal facilities to facilitate the purchase and sale of electrical energy.

CPUC Information

Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) "may perform some of the same administrative functions as the program administrator and also implement programs pursuant to AB 117. WEM (Womens Energy Matters) lists a total of 40 "Coalition member groups" and "environmental and energy activists" in support of this proposal, including the authors. WEM/SESCO (WEM/SESCO Coalition (also referred to as the California Coalition for Energy Efficiency) proposal.

In addition to coalition members, American Lighting, American Synergy Corporation, Cal-Ucons, ICF Associates, Inc. and the National Association of Energy Service Companies, Association of Bay Area Governments and UCAN support of this approach. In addition, two third-party implementers in Texas (Quality Conservation Services, Inc. and TEDCO Energy Services) support the program.

Other players include:
California Coalition for EE (WEM/SESCO)
Efficiency California (TURN/ORA Coalition)
Reaching New Heights (NRDC/LIF Coalition Amended)
Integrated Portfolio Mgmt (IOUs Coalition)

Renewables, Energy Efficiency and the Environment

The California Public Utilities Commission plays a key role in making California a national and international leader on a number of energy related initiatives and policies designed to benefit consumers, the environment, and the economy.

California's Renewable Energy

  • California's Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) has the most ambitious renewables goals in the country.
  • The California Solar Initiative is a comprehensive $2.8 billion program that provides incentives towards solar development over 11 years.

Energy Efficiency

  • Energy Efficiency Homepage
  • Energy Efficiency Program Savings - EEGA

Climate Change and the Environment PUC's aggressive Climate Change initiatives, such a greenhouse gas emissions performance standard.

Environmental Review

  • Interested in the PUC's environmental review of utility projects?
  • Looking for information on Electric and Magnet Fields (EMF)

SECOND: Build on Best Practices Research

Best Practices in Energy Efficiency

RESOURCE: Best Practices Benchmarking for Energy Efficiency Programs

The most successful energy efficiency programs intentionally incorporate best practices from adult learning theory into outreach activities so all energy outreach messages are relevant and accessible to the adults that attend the classes provided.

Best practices in adult learning include:

  • Offering information and experiences that show how to solve real problems that occur in daily work life
  • Providing opportunities during the training for attendees to practice new skills and receive feedback
  • Including small group activities and concrete experiences rather than relying solely on expert lecture
  • Providing limited or focused content that does not overwhelm attendees.

These practices increase the likelihood that training and education (T&E) will result in behavior change.

Market Transformation

Market transformation is a frequent driver for nonresidential T&E programs. These programs are often key components of a market transformation strategy. They may take several forms.

For example, some have a broad focus, seeking to inform key energy efficiency constituencies (for example contractors, engineers, and design professionals); others are more narrowly defined as a component of a larger program.

Most T&E programs seek to overcome market barriers related to lack of information, asymmetric information, and performance uncertainty.

In addition to educating key market actors on desired energy efficiency practices, training and education programs serve as a vehicle for disseminating program information to the market and making market actors aware of program opportunities.

Training and Education

Training and education further the overall goal of achieving energy savings. Many of these programs also support resource acquisition efforts by enhancing the skills, knowledge, capabilities and understanding of market actors so that they can more effectively develop energy savings projects with end users.

Effective Training and Education Programs

Effective T&E programs provide value to the target market specifically, not just the utility. Training approaches and content can be enhanced by
  • Market research
  • Baseline studies
  • Partnerships with professional organizations
  • Early evaluation efforts to create training programs that provide significant value to market actors.

Coordination with professional organizations can qualify T&E courses for continuing education (CEU) credits, increasing the appeal and value of the program.

Successful T&E programs

Successful T&E programs require a long-term commitment from implementing organizations. The programs reviewed here all represent multi-year commitments to training for a sector, a group of market actors or to a certification effort. The multi-year commitment is important in building expertise among trainers, refining curriculum and leveraging word-of-mouth communication. It can take years to build the program, the organizational capacity and the program reputation to the point where the training effort is poised to influence a discernable portion of the targeted market.

The Statewide training and education program, operating primarily through the energy centers, is designed to collect, transfer, research, evaluate, demonstrate, and showcase energy-efficiency concepts, technologies, and products.

Energy Design Resources (EDR)

Southern California Edison began EDR in 1998 as a stand alone market transformation program to provide information and tools to encourage energy efficiency design in non-residential new construction projects. It evolved to support the Savings by Design commercial new construction program by providing education about approaches to participants and potential participants in the statewide program. EDR is an integrated package of design tools and information resources, including publications, software tools, and training offered statewide by 2000.

In 2002, EDR was fully incorporated into the Savings by Design program. Over the years, the budget for EDR has decreased and the focus of the program has been redefined. The current focus of the program is to encourage increased use of the existing web-based tools and enhancement of those tools to meet the needs of the new construction market. EDR's website averaged approximately 3,500 visits per month (a total of 41,498), and 34 trainees completed EDR through on-line training courses. In 2005, average monthly website visits were approximately 17,800.

Internet Training and Education

Since the mid-1990s use of the Internet has exploded among all market segments, making it a primary information source for homes and businesses and a major source of equipment and efficiency information. With the expanded use of the Internet, information components of Training and Education programs have shifted away from traditional printed sources to web-based sources.

Websites and web portals provide new opportunities for combining information, on-line education, and training, and marketing of other related energy efficiency programs.

Key Metrics: Curriculum design, Training delivery, and Evaluation

Curriculum design, training delivery, and evaluation appear to be the program elements most critical to training program success. Curriculum must be informed by adult learning theories and activities structured to change behavior rather than simply transmit knowledge.

California’s Energy Design Resources (EDR)

EDR was originally a stand alone program embedded in the Statewide Savings by Design program in 2004-2005 and became part of the broader statewide education and training offerings at California IOUs in 2006-2008.

Savings by Design

Savings by Design offers a variety of incentives to encourage “integrated energy design” in new commercial buildings by bringing design teams together early in the process, obtaining owner commitment, and providing the resources to assist these teams in designing high performance buildings. The process of program participation “aligns the all-too-often conflicting objectives of developers, financiers, architects, engineers, specialty consultants, building managers, leasing agents, building operators, owners, and tenants to yield a positive outcome,”

While the goal of the larger Savings by Design program is to produce superior, energy efficient buildings, the goal of the EDR component is to support the program through accessible, relevant and technically accurate tools and information, thus EDR tools are a critical piece of achieving the savings goals of Savings by Design.

California’s Energy Center

California’s Statewide Education and Training Program is different from the other programs considered here in that it encompasses training activities at multiple locations for a broad range of service providers, designers, contractors and others.3 A glance at the lists of seminars offered in 2006 demonstrates the diverse mix of T&E opportunities – ranging from HVAC and compressed air to skylighting and drip irrigation.

In California, the Energy Center training efforts are described as a vehicle to “collect, transfer, research, evaluate, demonstrate, and showcase energy efficiency concepts, technologies, and products for manufacturers, businesses, researchers, educational institutions, and the general public,” making the Energy Center efforts less focused than the other programs reviewed.

The Energy Center trainings are an important part of the California utilities’ energy efficiency program efforts, addressing information-related barriers by disseminating information about specific technologies and practices to the endusers, trade allies and allied professionals. The program is not specifically designed to promote incentives available through other programs. However, an evaluation of the 2002 Statewide training program notes its effectiveness at reducing the barriers related to information costs, performance uncertainty, and information asymmetry—resulting in improved ease of participation in other nonresidential sector programs.

Training and Education BARRIERS

T&E programs (or T&E components of larger programs) commonly focus on overcoming or reducing market barriers to energy efficiency adoption among targeted market actors.

Information costs and performance uncertainty are the barriers most frequently addressed.

Information costs are the costs (in time and resources) of learning about energy efficient opportunities, products and services which are cost-effective to the end-user. Performance uncertainty is most often associated with new technologies, and emerges from concerns over whether the technology can deliver the claimed energy and cost savings. Performance uncertainty is the reason contractors and their customers shy away from a new technology or practice they haven’t seen before, due to doubts about performance claims and a desire to avoid being the first to adopt the measure. T&E programs address these barriers by providing accurate technical data and up-to-date information, as well as hands-on experience with the new technology or practice. Other barriers that can be addressed by T&E programs include information asymmetry, organizational practices, bounded rationality, and service unavailability.


The habits upon which organizations and individuals rely when choosing what to install and how to design space are deeply ingrained, often driven by knowledge or experience that may be outdated. The barriers of a specific market can be complex.

Information Cost

The cost of acquiring new information is the barrier most directly addressed by these programs. The programs address this barrier by providing comprehensive and accurate, information to the targeted market actors in a convenient, low-cost forum.

Performance Uncertainties

Offering technically accurate information about a given product or service can help overcome some uncertainty, as can hands-on training or direct experience with the product or application. Training can provide this experience directly, also, training efforts tied to incentive programs often offer an incentive for the first projects a trade ally completes – reflecting the logic that increased experience will reduce uncertainty.

Product or Service Unavailability

The impact of this barrier can be addressed through increasing the supply of energy efficient products and services in the market. T&E activities can do this by increasing the capability and willingness of existing market actors to offer the desired services.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality refers to reliance on “rules of thumb” and other simplistic decision making habits that can result in less than optimal decisions. T&E can help to eliminate these habits by providing more sophisticated tools and information to support better decision making when it comes to energy-using equipment.

Information Asymmetry

This barrier is related to high information costs and performance uncertainties. It refers specifically to the fact that the sellers of energyefficient products or services tend to have better information than their customers. Information asymmetry is best overcome by providing information in accessible, reliable formats to as many market actors as possible.

Organizational Practices

Increasing the understanding of life-cycle costs and non-energy benefits can potentially overcome barriers related to procurement practices, payback requirements, and other organizational practices that inhibit the selection of energy efficient products and services. Training programs that target O&M staff, production floor staff, and purchasing staff are seeking to change organizational practices related to facility maintenance, in order to incorporate consideration.

California Evaluation Framework notes that program theory documents ideally include:

  • The educational or informational subjects on which the program will focus and the efforts and activities to be undertaken;
  • The specific education or information transfer methods and mechanisms that will be employed in the implementation process (audits, workshops, training classes, announcements, demonstrations, ads, etc.);
  • The target market sectors, including, as appropriate, market segments or sub-segments and the geographical market areas the program is designed to reach;
  • Awareness, understanding, or knowledge of goals for target markets;
  • The expected effects in terms of what the recipient is expected to do or accomplish as a result of the information or education efforts;
  • The timeframes in which the expected results are to be accomplished;
  • The barriers that the information or education must overcome to be successful; and
  • The educational goals they are planning to meet within their program’s market in terms of end effects.

Integral to the development of an effective T&E program theory is a detailed understanding of the underlying baseline market conditions.

A detailed baseline study provides insight into the current market capabilities and knowledge base, and help to flag where education is needed to further advance the market.

For example, in Itron’s (as Quantum Consulting) 2003 Market Baseline Study of the Wisconsin C&I HVAC Supply Market (Quantum Consulting, 2003), further education of HVAC contractors was identified as an effective strategy to increase efficiency adoption based on their role as key decision influencers.


Building Operator Certification

Broadly managed by a regional energy efficiency nonprofit responsible for licensing the curriculum, tracking certifications, and approving trainers. Local implementation staff may be housed at participating utilities or regional nonprofits that provide the training opportunity across 20 states.

BOC is implemented by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC) in Washington State and in California.

The level of staff required varies by region or by state, but typically at least two people are required to manage and plan the BOC training program: an administrator and an on-site coordinator. NEEC continues to be involved in curriculum licensing, certification tracking, and instructor selection for all licensees. BOC is implemented by regional nonprofits in several areas of the country, including the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA).

The Industrial Efficiency Alliance is run by NEEA through prime subcontractor ECOS Consulting. The training director is housed at ECOS. The program has a somewhat complicated management structure since there are directors for each market segment and for each of the critical systems (motors, pumps, compressed air, and refrigeration). Contacts report NEEA deliberately set up this complex structure because it knew that transforming the market for the targeted sectors would require trainers with credibility and existing relationships, who can leverage these relationships to make direct contact with an organization tied to their industry.

Building Operator Certification

Tracking Information:

Number of students, courses taught, professional and educational organizations endorsing or collaborating with program, number of certifications, status of continuing education requirements

Curriculum development

To develop the curriculum for BOC, NEEC convened a committee of building operations professionals, training professionals, utility or energy program experts, and representatives from energy efficiency nonprofits or government organizations. The process took about two years to complete. Subject matter specialists created specific modules and reviewed the content, while a specialist in adult education worked to refine the curriculum.

The curriculum was tested and refined and after about four years of use, was finalized and licensed.

To further impart the relevance of the BOC curriculum to attendees, the program also includes an infacility project assignment which participants complete following the classroom training. The assignment engages participants in the direct application of information and concepts presented in the training to their facility. Project assignments are a required aspect of the BOC credential and include energy benchmarking activities, an HVAC systems review, and a lighting survey.

At NEEA, IEA trainers are selected based on education and training credentials. All of the trainers used by NEEA have earned either PhDs or are DOE-certified trainers. The program’s technical director conducts the shop floor level trainings. Trainers are required to be open to feedback and engaging to attendees.

Curriculum Development and Content Delivery

Defining and targeting desired behavioral outcomes results in more powerful program effects.
  • Provide relevant, credible information to attendees.
  • When possible, link training content to required professional continuing education (CEU) credits.
  • Employ technical experts for development of technical training content.
  • Employ curriculum experts to work with content experts to assure that the information is presented in an effective format for learning.
  • Train the trainers to improve the quality and consistency of trainings

California Best Practices Project Advisory Committee
Rafael Friedmann
Contract Manager
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
P.O. Box 770000, N6G
San Francisco, CA 94177

Prime Contractor, Itron, Oakland, CA 94607

Rafael Friedmann
Best Practices Study Contract Manager
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
P.O. Box 770000, N6G
San Francisco, CA 94177

Jennifer Fagan and Mike Rufo
Best Practices Study Prime Contractor Leads
Itron, Inc.
1111 Broadway, Suite 1800
Oakland, CA 94607
608-235-1314, 510-844-2800

Jane S. Peters, Ph. D. and Dulane Moran
NRET Nonresidential Education and Training Chapter Leads
Research Into Action Inc.
P.O. Box 12312
Portland, OR 97212

ACEEE, ESource, CEE, EPA’s Energy Star program, NRDC, CEC Commissioner Art Rosenfeld, and California’s PIER and Climate Change Action Registry programs.

IOUs as well as non-IOUs will continue to play a role in delivering energy efficiency services to customers as program implementers. They differ significantly, however, with respect to the future role of IOUs in performing two key administrative functions:

  • Program Choice
  • Portfolio Management

Program Choice

Program Choice involves the selection of activities and implementers for the portfolio of energy efficiency programs, and the allocation of ratepayer dollars to those activities for each funding cycle. Portfolio Management involves the day-to-day tasks associated with general administration and coordination of those ratepayer-funded programs between funding cycles. For example, at the beginning of each funding cycle, the entity responsible for program choice will select among:
  • commercial lighting programs,
  • programs to weatherize and upgrade appliances in single- and multi-family residences,
  • programs to educate builders and designers of new construction projects,
  • and many others
The decision is made how best to allocate authorized funding levels across those activities. Program choice also involves decisions over what combination of IOU and non-IOU implementers will receive program funds to offer and deliver the energy efficiency services to customers.

And that is where the opportunity is for outside training companies.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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