ISEIF Blog

We write about humans, the smart electric grid, and the interaction between these two. Occasionally, we tell jokes. Remarkably, we stay on point.

We collect a lot of data. What’s the point of it all?

Part 1 of our series on the role data plays in our grantmaking. Every quarter, our grantees report in and let us know how their projects are going. We ask for narratives about successes and challenges, we ask for stories from the field about people they’ve met, we ask about myths people espouse about smart meters, and we ask our outreach [...]

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A Tale of Two Toolkits

Recently we have come into possession of two toolkits designed to help shape messages about the smart grid for consumers.  One was created by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), and the other by the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) housed at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). (ISEIF supports both these groups and supported the CSLN project.) The SGCC [...]

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How not to ask ISEIF for money

For someone new to fundraising for a non-profit it is not at all obvious how to approach a foundation. Some of us at ISEIF have been in your shoes for more years than we've been in our shoes, so we get that. Few errors are fatal here. But here are a few ways that people commonly go astray. Please read [...]

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Stepford wives, R2D2, and the new smart home

This is the first of a new feature for the ISEIF blog. A chat between Clare & Uzma, lightly edited and transcribed. Enjoy: Clare:  Hey Uzma, I found the chat button! Feeling so empowered! Uzma:  Hooray! Can you hear me now? Clare:  It makes me want to chat about a smart home! Uzma:  I think that's an excellent topic. Especially [...]

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Three Little Questions – Patty Durand at Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) provides some of the most comprehensive and up-to-date research on the consumer’s journey in engaging the features, technologies, and programs enabled by the smart grid. We asked Patty Durand, President and CEO of SGCC, three little questions about how customers are engaging with smart grid technology and trends that are shaping the customer experience. Your [...]

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A person on fire does not want a sandwich

A person who is on fire does not want a sandwich. A person who is on fire wants a fire extinguisher. This explains, in one horrible metaphor, how ISEIF looks at pedagogical questions, and it explains why we sometimes decline proposals that might make sense on their face, and that are submitted by excellent organizations. The fire/sandwich dilemma may not [...]

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Marine Corps Energy Initiative: Changing behavior through group identity

How do you motivate someone to use less energy when they don’t pay for it and environmental impact isn’t a compelling reason? One answer is to tap into notions of group or individual identity—the characteristics we associate with ourselves and the communities to which we belong. A particularly good example of this is a campaign on fostering behavior change among members of [...]

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Enrolling in a demand response program could score you a manicure

Our Small Grants Program supports local organizations with deep community ties that don’t necessarily have expertise on smart meters or consumer energy topics. Garfield Park Community Council (GPCC) is a great example of a local organization that has roots in Chicago’s predominantly low-income Garfield Park neighborhood. Its staff members have lived in the area most of their lives, know people [...]

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Finding people where they are

Our friends at Elevate Energy continually impress with their Adena Rivas of Elevate Energy offers a lunch and learn to Walmart employees creative community energy outreach. They know how to find people where they are. Down in southeastern Illinois, where it can be hard to gather a crowd, Adena Rivas (right) might offer a lunch at learn at [...]

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Lessons from an early utility technology platform

This year's Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) conference brought together utility representatives, researchers, and energy consultants to exchange lessons learned from behavioral programs and pilots. While there were many insights from successful efforts, one presentation stood out for drawing valuable lessons from a program that didn’t go according to plan. Carol Burwick of Duke Energy talked about the company’s recently-discontinued [...]

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Watch “Empowered: An Energy Story”

Empowered has played for over a million guests as part of the Shedd Aquarium’s aquatic show. Focusing on responsible energy use, the video highlights the many ways that Shedd conserves energy while explaining that smart meters will enable everyone to think differently about their collective energy use. The video was an in-house collaboration between Shedd’s media and conservation teams, and Optimus, an [...]

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Three Little Questions – Bob Wengel at The Shedd Aquarium

Did you ever wish you could ask someone who does something really cool for a living three little questions to understand their world better? We’ve decided to make the three little questions an occasional feature of the ISEIF blog. To start us off, we asked Bob Wengel, Vice President for Facilities at the Shedd Aquarium to help us understand how [...]

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Nudging people into saving energy

How can behavioral science add to our understanding of how people think about energy? Cass Sunstein’s keynote talk at the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change conference was centered on one idea- by simply giving more thought to the way choices are presented to people can dramatically influence the choices people make. Sunstein calls this “nudging” to differentiate it from a [...]

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Tilting at Windmills – and Winning

As part of our Surge Summit in September, ISEIF staff took the time to tour some local sustainable businesses. I got to go on the tour of Testa Produce, which I’ve wanted to do since the first time I saw their big wind turbine spinning slowly from 47th street. Katie Moster, their Marketing Coordinator, showed us around.   Testa Produce [...]

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Insights from the 2016 Surge Summit

We just wrapped up a successful Surge Summit, where practitioners working at the intersection of education, residential energy, and behavioral strategies gathered to discuss this year's theme, Humanizing The Energy Future. At this year's summit, grantees showcased their work and learn from a larger community of peers and experts about changing landscapes as a result of the smart grid. The following is a summary [...]

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Have We Cracked the Code to the Energy Future? + Snakes on the Grid?

The utility business model is an important driver in making the energy system cleaner and more efficient. In what ways is the business model changing as the energy landscape diversifies? Clare and Uzma discuss this high-stakes, complex issue with Steve Kihm of Seventhwave and Andy Satchwell of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, two authors of a recent paper about the [...]

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How Is a Leading Utility Planning for the Future? + Are Monkeys a Threat to the Grid?

ComEd, one of the nation's largest and most innovative utilities, is halfway through a smart meter rollout that is part of a larger grid modernization effort What has changed for customers so far, and what does the future hold? Clare and Uzma talk with Val Jensen, Senior VP of Customer Operations, to hear about the latest updates on the transition [...]

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Is There a Better Way to Pay Utility Bills? + The Hazards of Candle-Burning

 Can new payment methods help low-income customers pay their bills and reduce utility arrearage? Flexible and prepay plans have been found to reduce late fees, increase consumer engagement and decrease energy usage. Clare and Uzma talk with Andrew Burroughs of IDEO and Dave Elve of PayGo about how their respective efforts have impacted utility customers.     Listen to [...]

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What Are Utility Customers Really Thinking? + Can Your Smart Home Play Fetch with Your Dog?

Are utility customers interested in the smart grid? The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative's research provides a unique perspective on how they think about their electricity usage, a valuable resource for utilities who are looking to offer new products and services. Clare and Uzma talk with SGCC President Patty Durand about their latest findings on what motivates people to engage [...]

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How Did a Utility Create the Next Great App? + Is the Smart Home Sexist?

The smart grid has brought lots of benefits for utility companies, but what about everyone else? Can a smart meter really provide value to everyday residential customers? In this episode, Clare and Uzma debate whether the smart home is sexist, and talk with Joel Miller of the DTE Energy about the award-winning DTE Insight app. Their discussion explores the following questions: [...]

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Who Needs a Smart Thermostat Anyway?

Do people even want new products to manage their energy? Should they? If not, what might change their minds? Our guest on the first Surge Series episode of 2016, Eddie Accomando of Parks Associates, is an applied anthropologist, market researcher, and technology adoption expert. Listen to to get his insights on: Features that real people are looking for in [...]

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Youth STEM education as a pathway to increased energy literacy

STEM education can be a key tool for preparing young people for emerging energy issues. How will it empower a diverse crop of future innovators to understand energy issues and shape the future? A portion of this podcast will feature ISEIF's grantee, Illinois State University, and their curriculum Smart Grid for Schools. Featured Guests: Krista Moroder, Digital Promise William [...]

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Why Are Our Homes Still Dumb?

For years, we’ve been hearing about the smart/connected home and how it will improve the lives of consumers, including making them more astute users of energy. Despite the arrival of smart meters, connected appliances, and learning thermostats, widespread adoption remains slow. Join us for an evening of discussion with leading connected home experts as they share their perspectives on where we [...]

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