National Accounts Programs Redefined: Closing the Participation Gap

Diane Levin

It’s no secret that ROI is a big motivator for utility national account customers when it comes to participating in energy efficiency programs. The benefits are evident, yet program participation rates often lag. With energy efficiency recognized as a proven method for increasing ROI for national accounts, it’s time to address the long-standing participation gap.


As defined by Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a national account is a multi-site company with centralized decision-making. To understand the reasons for low national account participation in utility incentive programs, put yourself in the position of an energy manager for a national account with 500 facilities across 20 states and 30 utilities chartered with reducing energy costs and carbon by 10 percent.

You define a project to retrofit equipment in all your facilities and plan to improve the project ROI by taking advantage of the utility incentives in your home state. You apply for utility incentives across all your facilities, only to discover that the rules of engagement and incentive levels change by state and even by utility within each state. As you look at nation-wide implementation, your utility ROI improvement becomes an administrative nightmare. Welcome to the world of a national account and utility incentive programs.


To address this issue, EEI conducted a national account customer survey and workshop in November 2013. Survey findings covered a range of issues, including:

  • Process and participation costs that eat into ROI;
  • Prescriptive vs. custom programs balancing requirements with customer needs;
  • Overcoming free-ridership issues related to implementing advanced technology; and
  • Communication improvements between utilities and customers.


At the EEI National Accounts Spring Workshop, Greg Tomsick, Senior Director at Boston Market Corporation, and Ted Schultz, Senior Vice President Utility Solutions at Ecova, led a session discussing national account perspectives. The discussion covered how energy efficiency programs are delivered, their overall purpose, why there are broad differences by state and how these programs can be changed to better serve national account customers.

As a result of the productive workshop discussion, Ecova is now working with EEI and a small group of utilities to find ways to alleviate common pain points uncovered in the survey findings. The group is launching a pilot project to define new models for increasing participation and success rates for utilities and the national accounts they serve.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me at

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