Energizing Utility SMB Solutions: New Insights into the Small Business Market

Mark Henderson

Finding new ways to help utilities reach their customers – especially historically under participating segments like small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) – is a key component of ENGIE Insight’s work in that sector. In my last post, Breaking Down Barriers: What Every Utility Needs to Know About SMB Engagement, I shared a high-level roadmap for driving SMB involvement in energy efficiency programs. Now, I’d like to build on that insight by taking a deeper dive into common barriers to participation among SMBs as well as what measures and messaging are most likely to be effective.

ENGIE Insight recently collaborated with Zpryme, an energy-focused research agency, to garner new market intelligence related to SMBs and their approaches to energy efficiency and energy management. More than 500 small businesses (fewer than 20 employees) and more than 500 medium/large businesses across North America – spanning a wide range of industries, from retail to hospitality to professional services – completed Zpryme’s survey.

Of particular note to ENGIE Insight’s utility partners are the following key findings: Ecova Zpryme Whitepaper

  • SMBs are already interested in EE. SMBs are already interested in energy efficiency work, with 73 percent of surveyed small businesses saying they do or have plans to implement energy efficiency projects. 79 of those businesses cite cost savings as a primary driver for participating utility programs, most commonly energy efficiency programs.
  • Utility-SMB relationships need strengthening. Small businesses look first to their local utility for energy management advice, but just 26 percent of those surveyed feel their utility is addressing the energy challenges they face very well. More than twice as many small businesses (32 percent) as medium/large businesses (15 percent) feel their utility isn’t moving fast enough to address their energy needs.
  • Budget is a barrier for most SMBs. While large businesses cite many barriers to participation in energy efficiency work, including available technology and security, most small businesses cite budget alone as their primary obstacle. To successfully engage this segment, utilities must find a meaningful way to solve the budget challenge.

Other takeaways from this survey can directly inform SMB program design. For example, knowing that 90 percent of small businesses value utility-provided energy usage data and recommendations allows us to prioritize those analytics as a first point of engagement. It’s also crucial to understand the gap between small and large businesses in their intent to adopt newer energy management offerings – with 79 percent of large businesses interested in pursuing demand response offerings, versus 39 percent of small businesses. Creating data-driven programs that specifically target SMBs, rather than deploying a one-size-fits-all commercial & industrial solution, helps ensure the offering’s relevance and actionability.

Find more SMB market insight in the whitepaper, The Utility Business Customer Survey on Energy Management: Piecing Together the Puzzle on Small, Medium and Large Customer Perspectives produced by ENGIE Insight and Zpryme. Then, stay tuned for follow-up blog posts exploring more opportunities related to this vital customer segment.

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