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Why you should take the time to answer program surveys

Employee working on a computer
The next time you get an invitation to fill out a BC Hydro program survey, consider taking the time to complete it. Surveys are invaluable to helping improve programs.

It's about continuous improvement, says evaluation team manager

Daniel Ouellet's team is riddled with talent. He draws on the skills of engineers, a statistician, an economist, survey specialists, and project managers. But nothing happens without data and the constructive feedback of those who participate in our programs.

"We value Alliance member input enormously," says Ouellet, manager of BC Hydro's evaluation team. "It's important because it informs us about how effective the programs are, and checks that they're delivering on changing the market and improving the adoption of energy-efficient products.

"We're mindful of the time it can take to complete a survey, so we try to limit the length, and we usually offer rewards for taking part."

It's the hidden rewards that matter most, however. Ouellet's team is called upon to delve into commercial, industrial and residential programs, in part to prove that each program's claims of energy savings are valid, and in part to find out how to improve those programs. And when a program works – for the customer, the contractor and for our goals – that's the sweet spot.

"It's a moving target," he adds. "The programs need to change to adapt to the market and respond to market conditions. And that keeps us on our toes."

Alliance members are contacted by email with invitations to complete surveys and occasionally with invitations to be interviewed. Those emails also explain any rewards that are being offered for helping the team.

Evolution of data access, right down to the hour, is vital

Invaluable to the evaluation team is analysis of energy use data. Ouellet says that data has helped his team better understand just how a business uses electricity, and the more granular data also makes it possible to measure even small levels of energy savings using statistical methods.

Just like how a customer checks their online electricity use to see the impact of laundry day, the evaluation team gets a factual portrait of a business' energy use.

"Now we can look at hourly profiles or daily profiles of energy use, and that's really opened up new possibilities for us," says Ouellet, mentioning that part of the process is also evaluating his team's methods to see how they can continuously improve as well.

Proving how energy-efficient products have reduced electricity consumption is key to BC Hydro meeting its demand side management goals, which are under the scrutiny of the B.C. Utilities Commission. But it's customer and contractor survey data, sometimes via interviews, that often extracts some of the best ideas for program improvement.

"Usually our evaluations help determine customer satisfaction with programs, and what barriers there might be to that satisfaction," he says. "We include both impact analysis and feedback to get a picture of how well programs are performing."

That assessment isn't limited to programs. Ouellet's team also evaluates how well residential rates and codes and standards help deliver on energy savings.