Utility sustainability: how to lower your last-mile carbon footprint
Sustainability is a key consideration for consumers, and the utilities industry is taking notice. If you’re interested in reducing your environmental impact, your last-mile service delivery is a great place to start.
Sustainability is a key consideration for consumers, and the utilities industry is taking notice.
A recent survey found that energy and utilities executives are more likely than those in other industries to have made sustainability-related changes to their operations. Many have even committed to a net-zero carbon goal.
If you’re interested in reducing your environmental impact, your last-mile service delivery is a great place to start — after all, road transportation accounts for 13% of all carbon emissions. Even if you’re not ready to replace your fleet with electric vehicles, there are steps you can take to improve your sustainability and limit your last-mile delivery carbon footprint. Let’s dig in.
Cut down on unnecessary trips
Imagine that a customer has forgotten about a repair appointment, and the technician is unable to gain access. The technician has wasted a trip, and will need to return at a later date.
Now, let’s say that during the rescheduled appointment, the technician gains access, but learns they will need a special part to complete the repair. They will now need to make an additional trip once they have the correct part. This hypothetical service appointment has now resulted in three times the transportation emissions of the original appointment.
The moral of the story is that improving the first-time fix rate (FTFR) is key to reducing emissions. Here are some ideas for how to improve FTFR:
- Provide a self-service portal where customers can cancel, reschedule, and provide details about their appointments, as well as track their technician’s ETA on the day of service. This reduces the chance of a no-access appointment.
- Send out automated appointment reminders to ensure customers have ample time to prepare.
- Facilitate two-way communication. When customers can provide details about the repair work, technicians are more likely to arrive at the appointment with all the materials they need.
It’s important to note that improving FTFR will also have a positive impact on customer satisfaction — completing repairs and solving issues quickly means less inconvenience for them.
Adopt a proactive maintenance approach
When it comes to maintaining utilities systems, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Proactive maintenance is around 10x more affordable than reactive maintenance, and can even help you reduce your carbon footprint.
By performing routine checks, you’re more likely to catch small issues before they become large, costly emergencies that require lots of labour, transportation, and materials to fix. For example, repairing a small leak may only take one trip, whereas a burst pipe would likely take multiple technicians, multiple trips, and a great deal more materials to remedy.
In addition to periodic maintenance checks, you can also set up monitoring systems to detect potential issues and automatically alert your team.
Optimise your routes
Route optimisation can have a significant impact on emissions. For example, UPS saves around 100k metric tonnes of CO2 emissions every year by avoiding left turns in countries with right-hand traffic. While your fleet is probably far smaller than that of a global logistics giant, you can still make a difference.
Route optimisation software can ensure your team is taking appointments in the best order, and taking the most efficient route between them — with considerations for traffic, weather, and historical data. By taking the best possible route, you can cut down on drive time, and therefore cut down on emissions.
Upgrade your fleet
One obvious way to reduce emissions is to upgrade — either completely or partially — to a hybrid or electric fleet. Many companies are preparing for upcoming restrictions surrounding petrol and diesel vehicles by doing just that.
Due in part to growing demand, hybrid and electric vehicles can be expensive and difficult to obtain (particularly in large quantities). However, they’re particularly suited for last-mile service delivery, because battery life and charging availability isn’t generally a concern for short, local trips.
The UK uses an estimated 9.9 million tonnes of paper each year, and while about 80% of it gets recycled, current recycling methods may actually increase carbon emissions. To help reduce the negative impact of paper on the environment, many companies are going paperless.
The truth is, utility customers often mistake paper communications for junk mail, anyway. Why not offer convenient digital communications instead?
Paperless billing is a good start, but you can take it a step further by offering paperless appointment reminders, day-of-service forms, receipts, and more. This doesn’t just save trees — it also saves the vehicle emissions that would otherwise be used to deliver paper mail.
Ready to make sustainable changes?
Reducing your fuel consumption is just the starting point for a sustainable utilities field service strategy.
To summarise, here are some steps utility companies can take to create a more sustainable last-mile delivery process:
- Improve first-time fix rates to cut down on unnecessary trips
- Focus on preventative maintenance
- Optimise your routes
- Upgrade your fleet to hybrid or electric vehicles
- Reduce paper waste by going digital
Whichever approaches you choose, setting goals and tracking your progress are also important steps in the process — reporting can help you identify areas of improvement and fine-tune your strategy.