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  • Pioneer Community Energy

How Pioneer Community Energy used Technology to Revitalize Its In-House Marketing and Communications Capabilities

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Pioneer Community Energy (Pioneer) is a community-owned provider of electricity serving Placer and El Dorado Counties in California’s Sierra Nevada region. When seeking out a new communications solution, Pioneer wanted a straightforward, easy-to-use digital solution with good metrics. After using cumbersome, deficient communications methods for a few years, Pioneer engaged govDelivery—a solution that saved thousands of dollars on printing and postage costs as well as employee time and resources.

“For smaller agencies like ours, govDelivery gave us the power of a major marketing firm. It expanded and deepened our ability to communicate with the public and customers without having to hire more people.”
Alexia Retallack, Program Specialist II, Pioneer Community Energy


  • From 3 Hours to Less than 5 Minutes to send out emails to a full subscriber list
  • 30% average email open rate (up to 43%)
  • 17-20% average click-through rate
  • Saved Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars on printing and postage costs
Must have Granicus Solutions

When Clunky and Inefficient Just Won’t Do

Pioneer had been expending precious energy and personnel resources to communicate with residents and businesses about their utility options and other offered programs. They sent emails the old-fashioned way, in blocks of only a couple thousand people at a time. “It was very clunky and inefficient,” said Alexia Retallack, Program Specialist II at Pioneer Community Energy. “We had been working that way since 2018, waiting for the opportunity to implement a mass communication tool.” After the board of directors requested an increase in communications, Pioneer turned to govDelivery to provide better, faster, more targeted communications to customers, residents, and businesses. “We were familiar with the flexibility and power that govDelivery offered,” said Retallack. “We just needed the chance to bring it online.”

Retallack—who was already an advocate of govDelivery after seeing it in action—had the task of selling the rest of her executive team on the software investment. The sticking selling points she cited were:

  1. The ability to eliminate the threat of being blacklisted using govDelivery’s whitelisting feature
  2. The promise of cost savings gained from switching from physical to electronic mail
  3. The opportunity for increased customer, resident, and business communications while decreasing the demand on staff time and resources
  4. The availability of metrics to measure, gauge, and improve communications and strategies

In El Dorado County alone, printing and postage costs could be roughly $62,000 for new customer enrollment notices. In Placer County—a larger, more densely populated area—enrollment printing and postage costs tallied up to $152,000. With govDelivery, the cost would have dropped to $55,000. Joint Rate Mailers—which are typically sent to 105,000 residents—would save Pioneer between $40,000 to $45,000 to send electronically. The price to mail out privacy notices could also be cut by about $16,000 using govDelivery. Not only could govDelivery save printing and postage costs, but it could also reduce the greenhouse emissions associated with the printing and mailing process, which includes the production of paper and automotive travel.

Needless to say, the executive team was sold on govDelivery’s cost-saving potential and overall ease of use.

“I was able to dramatically cut costs using govDelivery. govDelivery more than pays for itself in savings for Pioneer.”
Alexia Retallack, Program Specialist II, Pioneer Community Energy

Segmentation and Ease

Because Retallack and the Pioneer team had the foresight to set up topical subscription notices on their website prior to the govDelivery launch, they had a strong subscriber base right out of the gate. When it was time to launch, Pioneer divided their subscribers into smaller subcategories that included groups like contractors and people interested in energy efficiency and power procurement, in addition to business and residential customers. This segmentation helped them to create more targeted messaging that resonates more deeply with their current and future customers.

As a community-owned utility agency, Pioneer must meet certain California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandates, which includes—among other things— reporting on the level of diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunity related to the procurement process amongst utility companies. Instead of launching a full-scale recruitment effort to satisfy the CPUCs interests—like many public utility companies have done—Retallack decided to simply add a subscriber option to the Pioneer website for anyone interested in procurement opportunities. In a recent request for proposals (RFP) for a long-term renewable portfolio contract, Pioneer was able to effortlessly send RFPs to over 600 vendors using govDelivery, while also being able to track bounce backs and open- and click-through rates. These stats come in particularly handy when it is time to report vendor-related activity to the CPUC or Pioneer’s stakeholders. Pioneer has also found it easy to report the response of mandatory regulatory notices. Having feedback this detailed has helped Pioneer make more insightful decisions for the future of the agency.


The Pudding

Prior to govDelivery, sending out emails to a subscriber list was a task that once took two to three hours to complete. Now, that task takes about five minutes. Pioneer has an email open rate of 28 to 30% on average, with rates as high as an impressive 43% on occasion. While click-through rates vary, rates between 17 and 32% are normal, depending on who is being targeted and the subject matter. Messages about financial assistance are particularly popular, while general announcements usually attract fewer readers. Pioneer uses the data gathered through govDelivery’s metrics to tweak their approach to subject lines and send time to elicit better engagement.

“I love how easy it is to just push a button and communicate with so many people so easily. I can even test messages, automate them to be timed with other events or announcements, edit and update email lists quickly and easily... It’s fantastic!”
Alexia Retallack, Program Specialist II, Pioneer Community Energy

Pioneer worked with the City of Colfax—a member agency—to help them share the news about a grant the city had received to cover rent and/or utility expenses for residents in financial distress caused by the COVID crisis. Using govDelivery, Pioneer contacted a targeted group of customers to inform them of the economic relief opportunity. The email initiative had a 40% open rate and the city received a number of inquiries about the program.

“We have been able to use Granicus to provide people with information about COVID-specific financing relief programs, which has been really successful.”
Alexia Retallack, Program Specialist II, Pioneer Community Energy

Pioneer also used govDelivery’s email and social media features to launch their Green 100 program, a renewable energy initiative offered to all their individual customers. For about an additional penny per kilowatt hour, residents can get power from 100% renewable resources. Through electronic communication and word of mouth (no advertising dollars spent) over 100 residents and businesses have signed up for the program, which continues to grow.

When the state of California experienced a power shortage in early 2021, Pioneer was able to use govDelivery to disseminate emergency notifications about energy conservation to residents who had previously signed-up to receive alerts. The emergency messaging was also incorporated into social media messaging and the website as well.