EPA’s New Existing Power Plant Rules an Opportunity to Build Trust

EPA’s New Existing Power Plant Rules an Opportunity to Build Trust

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first-ever emissions rules for existing power plants. The rules – part of the President’s larger efforts to mitigate climate change – include flexible provisions for States to decide how they will reduce emissions. Advanced technologies will no doubt be part of the mix as power producers adapt to these emission rules, deploying solutions ranging from carbon scrubbers at the site of power generation to regional demand response solutions to manage consumer energy use.

As interested parties from all sides line up to debate the rules themselves, there is an important opportunity for energy producers to use this moment as a catalyst to build trust.

The energy industry writ large must overcome a trust deficit as it works to reduce emissions, and it must communicate these efforts to stakeholders. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows us that energy remains a lesser-trusted industry at 59 percent, coming in just above Pharmaceutical and Chemical companies.

However, there is a valuable opportunity open to energy companies: leveraging the expertise and “halos” of more trusted industries. Those in the energy sector can increase trust and drive meaningful engagement around emissions reduction by partnering with highly trusted groups like technology companies. Technology has consistently reigned as the most trusted industry and this year enjoys 79 percent trust, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

An example of this partnership is playing out near our Edelman DC office. Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) recently worked with Opower, a leading provider of cloud-based software to the utility industry, to conduct one of the largest dynamic pricing programs to-date that aimed to engage up to 315,000 consumers. The goal of this and similar programs is to manage consumer energy demand, which can reduce power needs and the associated emissions produced.

The program was a resounding success with 82 percent of eligible customers taking advantage of the dynamic pricing last summer. The program’s success has much to do with Opower’s unique approach that is backed by a deep understanding and innovative application of behavioral science.

Judging by the impressive participation rate, this successful pilot has no doubt helped build trust among BGE’s customers – an important step as the program aims to engage as many as 1.1 million customers in 2015.

We will likely see further partnerships with technology companies, NGOs and other trusted entities as these power rules are finalized. Political debates aside, I’m particularly interested in how energy players will communicate their response to these power rules – especially when engaging their customers.

Photo Credit: Kintigh Generating Station in Somerset, New York. Photo by Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)