Power Moves Profile: Trial then Run
When exploring job openings, Laura Matney was curious how her paralegal experience would fit with the position at an electric utility’s record center. It got her foot in the door – and led her into attics, crawlspaces and a variety of homes and other structures in the Midwest.
Matney, the marketing manager at Wabash Valley Power Alliance (WVPA), manages the Power Moves® program offered by WVPA’s 23 member electric distribution co-ops in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. It’s the culmination of the path her 26-year career at WVPA has taken. She first joined WVPA when she applied for the records center position; while her paralegal experience worked well for some of the legal requirements for WVPA’s records, she quickly became intrigued by the work that WVPA did with its member cooperatives.
“I wanted to work with the co-ops more, as well as their members,” said Matney, who began working in the WVPA’s marketing department in 1997, about six months after starting with the organization. “I knew the marketing group did a lot of work with our members, and I was really interested in that. I also wanted to get to know more about the member service side of the business.”
She quickly got to know co-op employees. Since it was an era before email was commonplace, she would often call them when she needed information. Matney frequently worked with the co-ops to develop marketing campaigns and order promotional items.
In the 2000s, Wabash Valley Power created a marketing campaign to position the co-op as their local energy expert and resource. Electric co-op employees sought training on heating and cooling systems and other appliances. Matney organized the education sessions and joined them along the way. The local co-ops’ energy advisor program was born.
“I crawled through the crawlspaces and attics with them and learned how to run a blower door, thermographic camera and all of those things alongside them,” Matney said of working with employees at WVPA member co-ops who became energy advisors. “There were a variety of things needed as we got the energy advisor program up and running.”
In 2010, Wabash Valley Power collaborated with its member electric co-ops to launch Power Moves. They built the program from the ground up, starting with residential rebates for homeowners to upgrade to energy efficiency equipment.
“We try to meet members where they are. There are some residential members who are very savvy, and don’t need a lot of guidance,” Matney said. “On the other hand, there are some who appreciate and benefit from the information that the program and personal attention an energy advisor can offer them.”
WVPA and its member co-ops next added prescriptive rebates for businesses, including an option to develop custom rebates to ensure their unique energy needs could be met. The rebates are often combined with economic development incentives offered by Wabash Valley Power and its member co-ops to foster business growth.
From 2010-2020, the Power Moves program awarded more than $28 million in incentives that collectively saved more than 297,927,000 kilowatt-hours – enough electricity to power nearly 25,000 homes for a whole year.
“It’s surprising that it has ended up as big as it has, because we didn’t target an end goal,” Matney said. “Being a member-owned cooperative, we just wanted to offer programs that families and businesses could use to better manage their energy use.”
Matney’s favorite offering is the Power Moves Home program, which offers incentives and design assistance for homeowners building a house to incorporate energy efficiency systems into the new structure. She continues to develop marketing plans with member co-ops, even working with some of them during monthly planning meetings for social media, blogging and outreach campaigns.
“I’ve had a lot of great experiences in my career,” Matney said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people and see the unique businesses that use the electricity that we provide to them.”