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Why millennials matter when it comes to energy efficiency

A new CEEA/IESO study examines the attitudes of millennials and how energy efficiency program design can be more effective for this important demographic cohort.

Energy efficiency programs need research on how to reach millennials. Photo:

On April 19 we will release Engaging Millennials, a research study we conducted for IESO on how to motivate millennials to support Ontario’s Conservation First Framework. But before those results are unveiled at CEEA’s Business Forum & Luncheon I thought it would be useful to look at why we thought the work needed to be done.

CEEA has already conducted surveys analyzing the attitudes towards energy efficiency of Canadian individuals generally, and of businesses. As our population ages and demographics shift it has become essential to look forward and revisit the ambitious goals we’re facing, particularly in Ontario.

Two years ago Ontario launched its Conservation First Framework, which is being implemented by the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator). Its goal is to reduce electricity consumption by
7 terrawatt-hours (TWh) by the end of 2020 and it will require as many Ontarians as possible to participate and be part of the solution. One of the reasons conservation has become an important strategy is the significant economic and environmental benefits it can provide. For every $1 invested in energy efficiency the province has avoided about $2 in costs to the electricity system. But not everyone gets that message.

Reaching millennials in a noisy marketplace

With that in mind we knew it would become increasingly essential to effectively reach a millennial audience. They are now moving into, or actively involved in the job market, and many are starting families and buying homes. While this may seem life as usual for any generation it is, but it’s also very different. They’re different. Swiftly changing technology, particularly the invention of iPhones and smartphones and the rise of digital and social media, how millennials communicate and receive information has significantly altered from anything we’ve known before. And as with any generation they have their own goals, habits and mindsets (just check out this celebrity millennial cross section: Sidney Crosby, Drake, Avril Lavigne, Patrick Chan, Perdita Felicien, Xavier Dolan and Patrick Nadeau Dubois).

According to the Brookings Institute by 2020 millennials, who were born between 1980 and 2000, will account for one-third of the adult population and 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025. In Ontario the Ministry of Finance cites millennials as representing a little over 20 per cent of the total provincial population.

Given this backdrop CEEA partnered with IESO to provide guidelines for developing strategies to engage millennials and design energy efficiency campaigns targeted to them, including Save on Energy. The Gandalf Group conducted surveys and focus groups and we also established an Advisory Group to help analyze the research. The group included utility and media/technology experts.

9 key recommendations for perfecting a millennial EE program

CEEA and IESO’s Engaging Millennials report will be released on April 19 at CEEA’s Business Forum and Luncheon in Toronto.

The key takeaways are realistic actions for IESO, Ontario local distribution companies and other IESO partners to implement. The report also has an Assessment Tool to help decide what research needs to be done before any program design occurs; it can also help determine the need for amendments or changes before a program goes to market.

A brief tease of these recommendations includes:
Audience groups are not homogenous, so various life stages within a group must be taken into consideration
Programs must be mobile friendly because millennials are never far from their phones
Retailers are an important part of a program – that’s where millennials look for solutions, not necessarily utilities
“Save” may be discounted by millennials, they consume information differently

What we learned….stay tuned

On April 19 at CEEA’s Business Forum & Luncheon in Toronto we’ll be presenting the full report Engaging Millennials along with Terry Young from IESO. Some of the findings to be discussed include:
• Are millennials taking advantage of information from utilities on how to reduce energy use?
• Do millennials use coupons from utilities?
• How familiar are millennials with Energy Star and the Save On Energy programs?
• Why haven’t millennials done more to conserve energy?
• What are the life goals and causes millennials believe will benefit their community, country and world?

Over the past few months I’ve been speaking to people about this millennial research and we are truly excited to finally be releasing it. Stay tuned for the findings.

Posted March 30, 2017