Overcoming a Monster Challenge
Engaging kids and adults in energy education and public power with the Monster Detective Collective.
There is a unique customer engagement opportunity that few utilities successfully take advantage of: energy education for kids. So why is this opportunity often overlooked? Well, kids don’t pay the bills and they likely won’t care about new energy programs like demand response. While this may be true, kids’ energy education offers a low-cost way for utilities to build brand recognition for a future market and engage with current customers — their parents!
To help utilities take advantage of this opportunity, Milepost partnered with the American Public Power Association (APPA) to develop the Monster Detective Collective’s Public Power program, an off-the-shelf program for utilities to educate their communities about the value of community-owned power.
Intended for elementary-aged students, six Monster Detective characters help tell the story of what energy is, how it’s made, how utility workers power towns, and how public power benefits the community through an interactive workshop.
In the workshop, kids travel throughout Monsterville to learn how community spaces — think the doctor’s office, grocery store and even their home — use electricity. Along the way, they learn about how much energy different items use to empower them to make smart energy choices in their own lives.
Throughout the workshop, Monsters are featured in different public power jobs, like Newton the meter reader, to expose kids to career opportunities in energy, including line workers, customer service representatives, and engineers.
Not only do parents learn from attending the workshops with their children, but kids positively influence energy behaviors at home (a Girl Scout troop proved it!), such as choosing LED lightbulbs or setting the thermostat to more energy-efficient temperatures.
We designed this program using market research — and our in-house public power expert — to ensure effectiveness. When we learned that it’s important for utility employees, rather than third-party representatives, to engage with their customers, we developed a train-the-trainer approach. This model empowers utility employees to deliver the program themselves and tell their story about current and future initiatives, such as demand response and residential time-of-use rates. It also makes the program scalable to the thousands of public power utilities in the U.S.
Through the Monster Detective Collective, utilities can engage in their communities in a unique way — by getting directly in front of their customers to advocate for public power’s reliability, affordability, and emphasis on the community.
What we did
Facilitated visioning sessions
Interactive content design
In its first year available, utilities large and small have taken advantage of the Monster Detective Collective Public Power program. As a case study, Lakeland Electric in Florida has used the program to engage their future and current customers and deepen their community involvement. What’s more, Lakeland has piggybacked the Monsters to help lay the groundwork for helping customers understand the utility’s demand response and time-of-use rates. At a First Friday event, an outdoor town celebration that occurs monthly, they showcased the Monster Detective Collective to more than 200 kids and their caretakers.
“[The] graphics are fantastic. Introduction of the monsters helps engagement [and] the monster x-rays were especially well received. We love it particularly as a municipal facility [with the] intergenerational learning because it helps teach adults [energy] concepts [and] ties well to demand which is the least understood billing option.”