VEC Utility Customers More Informed Than Most

Guest Blog | January 25, 2012 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Utilities
An example VEC bill, with key elements marked.

Not all electricity bills are created equal, and today we’d like to commend a local utility company on providing their customers with an exceptionally detailed one. Volunteer Energy Cooperative (VEC) provides information and advice beyond what the average national utility bill presents. Last November, John Wilson, SACE’s Research Director, shared with you a study about the lack of details that utilities publish on their customer’s bills. Conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the study found that, even though these monthly or quarterly statements are often a utility’s only consistent form of communication with their customers, there is very little useful information actually being shared. The chart below outlines the several possible elements of a billing statement that ACEEE considers valuable, and shows the percentage of utility bills that actually contain each component.

With their study, ACEEE pointed out the necessity of providing energy trend information and feedback to electricity users, and voiced concern that several utilities were not taking advantage of such a basic and easy way of preventing energy waste. However, we here at SACE are pleased to be able to say that this is not the case for Tennessee’s Volunteer Energy; their bill already includes most of these components and provides information that customers can use to better monitor and adapt their  energy habits.

VEC’s billing statements hit several of ACEEE’s key elements.
As you can see by the example bill above, VEC is able to present most of this information on a single page. In addition to current usage information that is a given on most bills, VEC’s bills also provide energy users with:

  • a breakdown of their electricity rate ($/kWh),
  • data on previous month and year usage, and
  • information on average daily usage and average daily temperature.

Users are even able to keep track of their home’s energy trends by a bar graph that plots their historical usage patterns. The chart shows energy use in kilowatt hours (kWh), allowing customers the opportunity to compare their electricity spending month-to-month, as well as with the previous year. In this bill, we can easily see that our example household had a slightly higher kWh average daily usage in November 2011 then in November 2010.

A copy of the Powerlines Newsletter that accompanies every monthly bill.

Furthermore, customers are offered tips and information on energy efficiency and conservation.
Most important to us about VEC’s bills, though, are the highlights and tips about energy efficiency and usage awareness that they also provide to their customers. As mentioned earlier, John’s previous post on ACEEE’s study highlighted a couple of the more surprising aspects of the reports results. Included in the blog was his surprise that less than 10% of the analyzed bills even referenced or suggested energy efficiency and conservation opportunities. Luckily for VEC’s customers, their bills can be added to that 10%. Looking at the example bill, you can see that there’s a paragraph at the top of each statement which promotes VEC’s free in-home energy evaluation program, and provides contact information for the customer to find out more about the distributor’s energy efficiency programs.

In addition to this paragraph, Volunteer Energy Cooperative goes a step further to promote energy efficiency and includes a monthly flyer with every bill sent, as pictured on the left. Called Powerlines, this newsletter provides further information about energy efficiency opportunities and energy conservation tips. Powerlines also offers more details and explanations of electricity terms, so that customers can further understand their bills and how to make use of all this information.

VEC bills would almost receive a perfect score on the ACEEE report.
Of the 15 utility bill components that ACEEE highlights in their report, Volunteer Energy Cooperative incorporates 13 of them into their monthly mailings – the only elements that appear to be missing are average daily cost and the type of meter reading used. Because this utility is making effective use of their biggest form of communication and providing VEC customers with more in-depth information, they are better prepared to control their energy usage and habits. We commend VEC for not only sharing a broader picture of their energy impact with their customers, but also for offering important suggestions on how to decrease home energy waste.

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