Case Study: ENERGY STAR® Residential Lighting Program

Changing the World One Light at a Time

During the West Coast energy crisis of 2000 and 2001, utilities from Seattle to Los Angeles were turning to their customers in homes and businesses to help lower peak demands for electricity. Out of this crisis a seemingly small solution was born that had the potential to create a large, positive impact – adoption of the unassuming compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL. One household adopting just five CFLs had the potential to save an average of 405 kWh per year. Ecova – whose foot was already firmly in the door of creating energy efficiency solutions – was called upon by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to quickly launch a coupon program that would give consumers financial incentives to purchase CFLs, as well as educate them on CFL benefits. The results were phenomenal –

In just one year, Northwest sales of CFLs jumped from 350,000 to 6.5 million bulbs – an increase of 1,700 percent.

Once the energy squeeze had abated, Ecova leveraged the momentum that had been built to help utilities in other regions introduce CFLs to their customers by building upon key partnerships with manufacturers and retailers, generating robust educational and marketing campaigns, and maximizing kWh savings for the lowest cost. Whether it’s helping Arizona manage energy resources in “boom times,” joining forces with Nevada utilities to reconnect with customers, or adding new product offerings to more savvy Northwest adopters, Ecova is transforming the market throughout the West and beyond.



Seeing Savings in a Whole New Light

APS, Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electric utility, serves more than one million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties. Providing this service to one of the country’s fastest-growing metro areas requires thoughtful planning; the utility faced the challenge of meeting its customers’ growing energy needs, but at the same time needed to be sensitive to the environment and the growing calls for reducing carbon emissions.

APS became an ENERGY STAR partner in 2005, and Ecova began implementing its ENERGY STAR Residential Lighting Program – just one part of a broader conservation campaign – in October of that year. The program is comprised of two core elements: 1) promoting the value of the ENERGY STAR brand and benefits of ENERGY STAR qualified lighting, and 2) offering customers discounted pricing through an upstream manufacturer buy-down on CFLs.

The program tied its launch in with the national ENERGY STAR Change a Light, Change the World campaign, and over the next year, moved over one million CFLs and saw retailer participation jump 266 percent.

The success of the program has been truly a “team” effort by all area of Ecova: strong manufacturer and retailer relationships through our program team; a toll-free customer support hotline through our Service Center; and advertising and media events through our Marketing department. The main marketing message, “See Savings in a Whole New Light,” resonated with new adopters, who were eager to learn about the benefits of energy-efficient lighting and save money on their purchases.

Adopting energy-efficient lighting in the Phoenix area has become a part of the culture, with much thanks to the program. Movement of CFLs surpasses goals every year, and even local and state leaders have responded; Governor Janet Napolitano proclaimed the first Wednesday in October ENERGY STAR Change a Light Day for the state in 2006 and 2007, while Mayor Phil Gordon has proclaimed an ENERGY STAR Day for Phoenix both years as well. The program has also given APS opportunities to develop stronger community relationships; each year the utility conducts lighting “change-outs” at non-profit organizations like Ronald McDonald House and low-income
housing centers.



Annual Energy Savings:

  • 264,916,279 kWh

Total Units Moved, 2005-2007:

  • 4,361,954 ENERGY STAR CFLs


  • ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award – 2007
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Exemplary Program Award – 2007



Increasing participation through consistent education

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) serves over one million residential electric customers in western Washington. In the fall of 2002, Ecova and PSE launched the ENERGY STAR Residential Lighting Program, hoping to build on the momentum for adopting efficient lighting created by the 2001 West Coast energy crisis and capture the cost-effective energy savings.

For the first three years, the program’s most consistent messaging focused on the benefits of saving energy, saving money, saving time and helping protect the environment. With the help of utility coupons at participating retailers, CFL sales continued to increase each year, and in 2006, Ecova coordinated, designed, planned and conducted three focus groups on behalf of PSE. These focus groups were designed as a test bed to identify and refine existing approaches to CFL marketing. In short, was awareness of CFLs increasing? If people were purchasing CFLs, what was the reason – and if they weren’t, why not?

To understand the level of consumer knowledge, feelings about, and motivation to purchase CFLs, three focus groups were conducted: one in Seattle, Wash. and two in Bellevue, Wash. The participants represented a mix of homeowners vs. renters, genders, ages and income levels. They were PSE customers and had never purchased CFLs or hadn’t purchased them in more than two years.

The research was enlightening in getting to the core of why certain people were still resistant to CFLs. Even though people felt energy efficiency was important, CFLs were considered expensive and “funny looking.” They trusted PSE and the CFL packaging to give them information on CFLs, but they needed convincing that bulbs were worth the extra cost. They liked messages that showed savings and were informative and motivational.

Using this information, Ecova focused some marketing messages on savings and longevity, which were topics that resonated with users. They also worked to get rid of negative connotations, by promoting specialty bulbs that looked more conventional (globes, a-lines) and promoted the different color ranges available. In 2006 and 2007, over 1.1 million and 1.3 million CFLs were sold, respectively, compared to over 1.3 million in the first three years combined.



Annual Energy Savings:

  • 136,498,270 kWh


Total Units Moved, 2004-2007:

  • 3,411,706 ENERGY STAR CFLs
  • 100,459 ENERGY STAR fixtures


  • ENERGY STAR Award for Excellence in Promotion – 2006
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Exemplary Program Award – 2007



Strengthening customer relations while saving kWh

After several years of effectively being out of the energy conservation game, Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power made the decision in 2003 to launch two pilot conservation programs administered by Ecova – one of which was an ENERGY STAR Residential Lighting program.

The ENERGY STAR theme of “change” struck a creative chord with the two utilities, which in recent years had experienced unflattering media attention and criticism from their customers. By integrating the key element of “change” into their utility branded theme, “Working Together for Change,” Ecova and the utilities sent a positive message: one, consumers could make a change to save money or to help the environment, and two, the utilities would change to better meet their customers’ needs.

The program also focused on retailers to help spread the message of change, so Ecova field representatives reached out to foster a sense of cooperation and partnership. Sales staff training, point-of-purchase materials and special outreach events were successful at increasing the utilities’ presence in stores and educating consumers about CFL benefits and utility-sponsored discounts. As the program gained traction,

Retailers soon recognized that promoting the utility-sponsored discounts through training and outreach benefited store sales, and were soon eager to welcome the events.

As the program realized success, Ecova and the utilities recognized that they were not sufficiently addressing an important customer segment – the Hispanic community – which comprised approximately 20 percent of their customer base. A pilot campaign aimed at the Hispanic market, “Gane Ahorrando Energía” or “Win by Saving Energy,” was launched in 2004. The pilot effort focused on Nevada Power’s Las Vegas territory with a language-specific print, radio and television campaign, culminating in a retail-based promotion presented at The Home Depot.

Surveys conducted at this event provided useful information about the Hispanic community’s impression of ENERGY STAR, which helped shape future promotions.



Annual Energy Savings:

  • 209,451,314 kWh

Total Units Moved, 2004-2007:

  • 3,360,053 ENERGY STAR CFLs
  • 64,912 ENERGY STAR fixtures


  • ENERGY STAR Excellence in Promotion Award:
  • 2005 – Hispanic Outreach
  • 2007 – Change a Light, Change the World Campaign
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Exemplary Program Award – 2007

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