What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Energy Efficiency Industry

By Megan Porter

The energy efficiency industry has been highly successful in getting its message out and affecting consumer behavior. It’s done so by embracing strategies that savvy entrepreneurs can incorporate into their own efforts to plan effectively and build their businesses.

California’s efforts to popularize green business practices has resulted in the state’s residents saving billions of dollars in potential energy costs. California’s energy efficiency standards have saved Californians more than $74 billion in reduced electricity bills since 1977.1 By being well conceived, well planned and well executed, these programs changed the mindset of consumers from one of indifference regarding energy conservation to one of an active pursuit of it. As a result, residential electricity bills in the Golden State are 25% below the national average, which has contributed to the state’s continuing leadership in creating green jobs and driving the energy industry.

A Blueprint for Changing Perceptions
There are many lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from the methods the energy efficiency industry used to achieve this change in perception. And many of these strategies are applicable to entrepreneurs working to develop their own start up or grow their business.

  • Marketing strategy: The energy efficiency industry has been adept in getting its message across to both a specific target audience as well as the more general population. It has accomplished its goal of encouraging others to adopt energy efficient habits and technologies by keeping the message simple: Save the planet and save money. This tactic has been very effective at keeping the message consistent, even when applying it to varying industries like lighting, automobiles, home appliances and water usage. The best energy efficiency programs demonstrate the power of a clear message, consistently applied. It’s a lesson that every entrepreneur should take to heart.
  • Goal setting. Energy efficiency programs don’t just set out to “reduce energy use.” They build goal setting into their DNA by seeking to cut energy use by a set amount after a set period of time. Setting goals helps focus efforts and evaluate the effectiveness of various measures, and it provides the added motivation of a deadline. And finally, wisely chosen goals help focus resources where they’ll do the most good, something startups must do to be successful.
  • Stressing benchmarks. The energy efficiency industry emphasizes data collection. That’s why it provides a wealth of tools that businesses can use to figure out what their resource usage is when starting an energy conservation program, and what their usage is after the program has been in place for X amount of time. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) online account tool allows business owners to evaluate how well their company is using energy and make adjustments online to help promote greater energy and cost savings.2 This focus on stressing benchmarks and having access to accurate real-time data helps ensure that a strategy or product is performing as expected. Measurable results spotlight programs that are effective and those that aren’t, which guides future decision making. Benchmarks also help managers compare the performance of their business to that of other similar businesses nationwide.
  • Utilize best practices. Energy efficiency programs, like entrepreneurs, are well served by studying and adapting the best practices of competitors and organizations with similar goals. The most effective energy efficiency programs begin with a specific market in mind and leverage external expertise. They build off models with a track record of success and they invest in education and training to deliver increasingly sophisticated solutions. Those are all practices entrepreneurs will find useful.
  • Emulate what works. Energy efficiency programs are typically bootstrapped and must be nimble and effective with the resources they have. Those are constraints that entrepreneurs will find familiar. By learning how successful energy efficiency programs became effective, entrepreneurs can find valuable ideas that can help them achieve success with their own ventures.

Entrepreneurs face a host of obstacles that the energy efficiency industry also had to overcome. However, with the successful adoption of best practices like these, an entrepreneur is sure to effectively navigate the waters of business ownership. For business owners seeking to reduce operational costs, PG&E is offering a free eBook to download: "25 Money-Saving Tips for Businesses". Check it out now!

  1. California Energy Commission
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Energy Efficiency Industry
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

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