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Three Cups of Coffee and Energy Efficiency

One of the most challenging tasks is starting projects in a new territory lacking minimal experience with energy efficiency.  We have learned that to start and manage a new program to the level of meeting or exceeding savings goals, the process requires building confidence in the program, while exercising strategic patience.  So what do coffee and energy efficiency have in common?  What is the connection?  The answer is simple: the Ethiopian coffee ceremony provides valuable lessons for launching and implementing new energy efficiency (EE) programs. 

In Ethiopia, coffee is a vital part of society, ranging in importance from making or breaking a marital agreement to simply welcoming new guests into your home.  The ceremony occurs in threeblog-pic-3 stages and involves the same coffee grounds boiled for each stage.  The first cup is strong and abrupt; as the journey progresses through the second and third cup, the drinker finds themselves relaxed and enjoying a smooth taste of Ethiopian goodness.  The common theme through the ceremony is the conversation during each stage and, where you start the ceremony as a stranger and conclude as a friend.  Therein lies the lesson for implementing new EE programs in a previously untouched territory.

1st cup: “Abol”

It goes without saying that a marketing campaign announcing new programs is vital to program success, but like the first cup of coffee, the initial reception from the utility’s customers is likely met with a strong and abrupt speculation.  Recently, in South Dakota, DNV GL launched both a rebate/incentive program and an in-home energy audit program.  Our outreach personnel and field auditors were often initially met with an attitude of “Why are you here?  Everything is working just fine without you.”  But, as they journeyed through that bitter, strong first cup they started to make headway.  Customer education, patience in explaining the benefits of energy conservation, and demonstrating the positive outcomes of certain behavioral changes broke down many barriers and interest expanded.  Rebates slowly starting arriving and the residential audit scheduling tempo increased.

2nd cup: “Tona”

With barriers breaking down, not only did the team continue to expand program knowledge, but those who enjoyed that first cup started to tell their friends and neighbors about how positive the experience was.  Contractors began “selling” the program concepts.  As our team enjoyed and shared the second cup of coffee, they started to see an atmosphere more characterized by, “I’ve heard about the work you are doing and I am interested.  What can you do for me (and my company)?”

3rd cup: “Baraka”

Finally, and towards the end of the contract, DNV GL shared the third cup of coffee with South Dakota.  The coffee had mellowed and conversation which started one-sided from the company to the customer had become a shared dialogue centered on program offerings and questions emerged such as “What’s next?  Are you considering this/that?”

Over the course of several decades, DNV GL successfully started new energy efficiency programs for utilities throughout the United States.  While we start as strangers in a new territory, our expertise, experience, and professionalism morphs into a welcome presence, recognized for providing “energy goodness” in a previously untouched area. As an example and at the conclusion of the initial contractual period in South Dakota, DNV GL employees managed to exceed electric energy saving goals by 147% and gas savings by 102%.  From what was a seemingly slow start transitioned into a strong finish exceeding client expectations.  The slow start, similar to strangers enjoying Abol, transformed into a mutually beneficial relationship between DNV GL, the utility, trade allies, and, most importantly, the communities and customers.  DNV GL has expertise in initiating, maintaining, and invigorating energy efficiency programs in a myriad of customer environments.  Utility companies can rely on DNV GL to meet and exceed their energy efficiency goals, because we understand the relationship between building trust and program success.

So, “Nu buna tetu” (Let’s have coffee) and save some energy implementing your new programs!

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