Inclusion helps visionary energy efficiency programs at Ameren Illinois stand out
Inclusion is a Leidos value, but it is also a value that is shared by many utilities across the country. One such utility, Ameren Illinois, has woven inclusion into the fabric of the programs and services that it delivers to the more than 1,200 communities it serves in a territory that spans nearly three-quarters of the state. As the program implementer for the Ameren Illinois energy efficiency programs, Leidos is proud to be a part of this award-winning and industry-leading portfolio that features inclusion as a top priority.
In 2017, Ameren Illinois approached the Illinois Commerce Commission with a plan for its 2018-2021 program cycle. While every Illinois utility is required to incorporate energy efficiency programs and energy savings goals into their plans, Ameren Illinois had a vision to deliver a program that was inclusive for all of its communities. Based on the premise of Energy Efficiency for All – the vision of Ameren Illinois Chairman and CEO Richard Mark – this forward-thinking program went beyond energy savings goals to incorporate inclusion into every facet of implementation.
This approach was considered fairly revolutionary at the time, and there was plenty of pushback from a number of organizations. Instead of using a portion of their budget to take a traditional approach to energy efficiency (such as the purchase of energy-efficient equipment), Ameren Illinois proposed to use those funds for programs that promoted inclusion – access to energy efficiency information, programs, tools, and solutions for all. “Not every utility has the political will or the fortitude to do this,” noted Kristol Simms, Senior Director of Energy Efficiency and Regulatory Policy Implementation. “But we were committed to this vision. Instead of buying equipment, we decided to help change our community.”
This approach, called the Market Development Initiative (MDI), is comprised of projects and partnerships that work together to engage customers and businesses who have not previously benefitted from energy efficiency. Ameren Illinois’ goal was to serve the underserved – the businesses, people, and communities who would likely derive the most benefit from energy-efficient practices.
There are three foundational goals for the program:
1. Engage customers who have not previously benefited from energy efficiency
2. Increase the number of energy efficiency jobs available to local and diverse candidates
3. Support economic development through new or growing energy efficiency businesses
An underlying premise of the Energy Efficiency for All mantra is the recognition that energy efficiency services and the associated benefits can spur local economic development – especially in low-income and economically challenged communities and neighborhoods. The program goals are based on the belief that all customers – regardless of income or socioeconomic status – should have access to incentives that help them overcome participation barriers, complete energy-saving upgrades, and increase their quality of life.
As the prime implementer for the portfolio, Leidos provides program management, marketing and outreach, education and training, data management and tracking, Program Ally management, and oversight of all program activities focused on achieving business and residential energy savings goals. Our long history with Ameren enables the Leidos project team to understand the utility’s goals, pivot quickly as needs evolve, and provide an exceptional level of customer service.
“The way that Leidos has stood side-by-side with us as a partner at every step of the way has made a world of difference,” noted Simms. “Everyone is rowing in the same direction so the impact is greater, and our reach is broader. The way Leidos has approached and supported efforts like ours has been phenomenal.”
This shared goal of inclusion manifests itself in a number of ways. In planning for the MDI program, Ameren Illinois and Leidos make sure that the customers who have the greatest need for the program (low- and moderate-income customers) find it accessible, designed to fit their needs, and affordable. And this project team identifies small, diverse businesses and program allies as part of the Ameren supplier diversity initiative, thus supporting economic development in the communities served by the utility. Additionally, the team relies on community-based partnerships to reach customer groups that the utility otherwise might not be able to reach, such as senior citizens aging in place, or parents with children in a Head Start program. “Working in partnership with these community-based organizations allows us to engage with the community in a natural way and help the organization meet their objectives as well,” said Simms.
As the third piece of the puzzle, Ameren Illinois is building an energy workforce for now and the future. By committing to providing workforce development through scholarships for diverse, non-traditional, and returning students, internships, and job opportunities, the utility is connecting job seekers with the resources they need to enter – or re-enter – the workforce. This meaningful approach to workforce development not only provides employment opportunities, but it also holds the potential to change the trajectory of a career path for individuals and open up doors that were not previously open. “To see our program make opportunities available for others – that really makes me proud,” said Simms.
Through its energy efficiency initiatives, Ameren Illinois is able to build greater community engagement, create energy industry jobs, and deliver cost savings to those that need it the most – elements that are paving the way for a bright and inclusive energy future in Illinois.