When and why cities should team with utilities

Tue, 2013-07-09 10:09 -- Jesse Berst

Some cities own their own electric power utility. Most cities, however, have an arm's length relationship with a utility that serves many cities in the region. Here's a new report that suggests one area of cooperation -- namely around programs to promote conservation, energy efficiency and renewables integration. Utilities often have mandates that require them to achieve certain goals in one or more of those areas. And those mandates typically line up with the sustainability goals of cities. Skim the release below and then reach out to your regional utility. I predict you'll quickly discover several ways to collaborate right away. You can give utilities something they need -- namely, your trust factor. In return, they can give you programs that will reduce city energy use and emissions. – Jesse Berst  

Citizens Expect Local Government to Take an Active Role in Conservation Programming

Boulder, CO — Despite growing anti-government backlash and cynical thinking about poor conservation behaviors from Americans, local government may hold the key to creating successful conservation programs. Public utilities, especially, try to draw in residents with incentives and educational initiatives to encourage participation in efficiency and conservation programs. Unfortunately, their messages are notoriously ineffective. In fact, citizens are looking to local government to guide them with specific information about how to conserve, provide rules for unacceptable resource use, and even provide enforcement where necessary. Strong opportunities exist for community partnerships that provide effective conservation messaging, leveraging the individual propensity for civic duty, pride, and community excellence.

“Citizens are overwhelmed with messages that ultimately make them feel powerless to affect positive change,” says Carol L. Stimmel, founder of Manifest Mind. “It turns out that citizens really do want to do their part to conserve limited resources, but they want to work with people they know and trust to help them implement strategies that are workable for them. Local government is the ideal channel to meet this need.”

Manifest Mind, LLC, the sustainability research and consulting company based in Boulder, Colorado has released a new study entitled, "Tapping into the Power of Civic Responsibility in Designing Conservation Programs," that provides fundamentally new insights into engaging American citizens with conservation programs. This comprehensive presentation details the findings of a web-based survey of 403 citizens in the United States conducted in April 2013, expert interviews and a literature review on the topic of civic responsibility and resource conservation, including energy, recycling, and composting. Most importantly, the study provides best practices for public utilities that helps them effectively tap into consumers’ sense of civic responsibility to construct successful efficiency and conservation programs. These best practices demonstrate the importance of normative messaging, the role of the local community for successful implementation, and case studies that show the practical application of these techniques.

The study is available for purchase now from the Manifest Mind website. Further information, including a complete report summary and list of figures is available at https://www.manifestmind.com/downloads/civic-responsibility/.


Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to subscribe to SmartCitiesNow, the weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques.