Pacific Gas & Electric Company
At a Glance
Energy or Utility
Sustainability and Energy Management Strategy
San Francisco, CA
Mike Hower worked on a strategic communications project to market a new on-bill energy-efficiency finance program for mid- to low-income homeowners.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) enlisted the help of Mike Hower in June 2015 in expanding access to energy efficiency upgrades. With a focus on the macro potential of energy efficiency rather than the micro efforts of an individual organization, it was an unconventional placement for an EDF Climate Corps fellow, but as a graduate student in information technology and political communication, Hower was also an unconventional fellow. Hower came aboard PG&E’s Energy Efficiency Finance team just as it was finishing up the program planning stage for the residential loan program, an innovative on-bill finance program aimed at empowering mid- to low-income homeowners in California to finance energy-efficiency upgrades for their homes.
Improving energy efficiency statewide is one of the pillars of California’s Climate Action Plan, but the high cost of energy efficiency projects means many homeowners are unable to pursue them. The loan program was one of several pilot programs sanctioned by the California government aimed at helping homeowners finance energy-efficiency upgrades. PG&E was one of several stakeholders involved in making the program a reality, including local governments, local nonprofits and financial institutions. With the program planning stage complete, it would be Hower’s job to work with all of these stakeholders to develop a plan to coordinate their marketing communication and public engagement efforts with PG&E’s. Leveraging his background in marketing, strategic communication and public policy, he set out to do just that.
Maintaining a consistent message that still permitted enough flexibility for local customization proved to be the biggest challenge. The program was set to be piloted in three distinct jurisdictions: Santa Clara County, Fresno County and Yolo County. Each region faced its own particular set of opportunities and potential hurdles, which PG&E needed to be positioned to help address. After several weeks of getting up to speed on the program and researching each jurisdiction, Hower was ready to head out into the field to meet with local government partners. In addition to strengthening the working relationship, meeting with the partners allowed Hower and PG&E to collaborate to overcome some of the more pressing implementation details, such as contractor recruiting.
The new loan program was scheduled to be implemented after Hower’s fellowship ended so he left PG&E and its program partners with a comprehensive strategy document that could be used when the time comes to launch strategic marketing communication and public engagement efforts. It should be useful for those currently working on the pilot, as well as those who come after.