Eversource: Breaking Down Barriers to Participation
Eversource’s equity work has four strategic pillars:
- Improving communication effectiveness
- Effective engagement
- Interacting with customers prior to siting or permitting a project, seeking to balance equity, system resiliency and affordability
- Enhancing delivery of services and effectiveness of services
The company’s commitment to effective engagement includes a commitment to expand customer and community outreach and reduce barriers to participation in their energy efficiency programs and diversify its workforce.
Eversource recognizes the environmental justice implications of its energy efficiency programs and wants to break down the barriers for participation. The first step was to engage with customers in underserved communities and learn why they haven’t taken advantage of available energy efficiency programs. One barrier that became clear was language. For example, to those who speak Spanish, the term ‘energy conservation’ resonates much more than ‘energy efficiency.’ Language access continued to be identified as a significant barrier. Eversource is in the process of completing a robust language access plan — the first in the nation for a utility. The plan will be designed from the perspective of a bilingual customer’s journey and will create interventions and communication tools and products that will improve their experience and increase the cultural appropriateness of communications in each step of the process.
Eversource has also found that potential employees from underserved communities are experiencing significant barriers to completing certifications required for employment. For example, some potential employees may not have transportation to attend a training session or the financial flexibility to be able to take a course during the work week. To engage more partners who will bring expertise and deep community knowledge, Eversource is releasing a request for proposals to provide grants to organizations who have creative ideas for how to break down the barriers to receiving necessary certifications. One example is the partnership between Eversource and Capital Community College in Connecticut. The college developed a virtual line workers certification program that addressed the significant barrier of student transportation. Class segments requiring in-person attendance were scheduled on the weekends to give students more flexibility. Fifteen individuals graduated from this cohort and are now Eversource employees.
Eversource recognizes that equity work is ongoing by proactively developing policies and guidelines to ensure stronger equity, accountability and fairness in daily practices and interactions with customers. A clean energy future only works if it’s accessible to everyone. Eversource is investing in new infrastructure and innovative solutions to meet the growing needs of our customers and communities to ensure a more sustainable and equitable future.
“Equity begins with a commitment and a willingness to do better. Equity work begins on the inside — by opening our hearts and our minds and remembering that we are all human beings living together in the same world. Ensuring equitable outcomes for our customers means challenging ourselves and each other to look inward at how we do things and identify and address unintended barriers that impact our customers. Equity is about doing a better job at living together. It’s about collectively working toward what should be,” said Hopkins-Staten.