Can we agree that the vast majority of residential energy audit programs are designed without a shred of entrepreneurial potential?
Programs become fortress like in their imperative to protect themselves and their designs. But I’m afraid the castle walls must be breached. A program design should be exactly as sacrosanct as its performance justifies. No more, no less. Question assumptions. Regularly. And especially in the early stages of a program.
How would Google run an energy audit program? What about Apple? Or perhaps Zappo’s? Do you think that programs that they would design would look like the ones that we have today? I doubt it. But just as Google runs trial balloons and then lets them go, programs should do the same. In marketing, A/B testing is commonplace. Test Idea A against Idea B. In energy audit programs, we often run pilots, but only on Idea A. Where is the A/B testing? Yes, it would take longer and be more expensive. How much time and money is wasted on faulty assumptions that wouldn’t stand the up to a rigorous test?
Here’s an idea. The next time a DSM program is designed, make it a competition. Much like architects might enter a design competition. And don’t send it to just the usual suspects. Throw the doors open wide. The winner might surprise. They might not be the right entity to RUN the show, but you can pay them for their effort. Prize money! A bounty for innovative, entrepreneurial designs.
Then, fund the best two or three and think of it as an incubator for program proof of concept. Encourage cross-disciplinary teams. Bring together the engineer and the anthropologist, the marketer and the statistician. This is how it’s happening in business, cross-disciplinary teams are forging unexpected and new paths in all manner of fields. Let’s grab a little of that mojo for our industry.