AAA Greenlight Partnership Webinar (Text Version)
This is a text version of the video for the AAA Greenlight Partnership webinar presented on May 26, 2010, by Debra Wong, AAA Greenlight; Robin Erickson, Utah Clean Cities; and Andrew Hudgins, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
ANDREW HUDGINS: Welcome, everybody, to today's Webinar. Today, we're going to be talking about the Clean Cities and AAA Greenlight partnership. That partnership is being exemplified by Robin Erickson with the Utah Clean Cities and Debra Wong with Northern California, Nevada, and Utah AAA. And the objective of today's Webinar is to give coordinators a sense of how they can partner better with community organizations that aren't our typical Clean Cities "fleets, fleet partners, fleet stakeholders."
We recognize the need to provide training to coordinators to better prepare you to outreach to these community organizations and really trying to find the right message for each of these organizations. We recognize that you need to have the resources and knowledge to partner with a wide variety of these stakeholders like, today, AAA and others, Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, and Rotary Clubs.
So, you know, we feel that there's a really big opportunity to really promote the Clean Cities message to these organizations and also help further our recognition of how we can be resources to help these organizations meet their goals.
As we're going to discuss today, with the AAA Greenlight program, a lot of these organizations have programs and priorities within their structure that are very complementary to what we're doing at Clean Cities, and this more than ever is really demonstrated by this AAA Greenlight program.
So today, we're going to talk about how one Clean Cities coalition, the Utah Clean Cities, has partnered with their regional AAA organization to work together to promote alternative fuels, petroleum reduction, and other advanced technologies in their community.
So let me—that said, I'm going to introduce—give you a little bit of a bio about both of our speakers. First is Debra Wong: she's the transportation and environmental policy specialist for AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah, where she is responsible for public policy analysis and advocacy on a variety of transportation and environmental issues including transportation funding, alternative fuels, and sustainability.
Debra oversees AAA's award-winning Greenlight Initiative, which, through AAA, promotes the development and understanding of alternative fuels and vehicles. Before joining AAA in 2005, Debra worked as a researcher in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Transportation Management and at the University of California Transportation Center.
And our second presenter—I'm sure most of you know—is Robin Erickson, who is the director of the Southern Utah Clean Cities. Previously, for the previous three years, Robin was the director for the entire state of Utah. Before that, she was the transportation manager for Media One of Utah, which was formerly the newspaper agency for over 17 years.
Under her management, over 200 vehicles were fueled by propane, compressed natural gas, and biodiesel, which saved the company over $358,000 in fuel costs and $118,000 in maintenance and helped to reduce over 9 tons in particulate matter emissions.
Robin has been working with AAA for the last two years with both grants, outreach events, and legislative issues. This relationship has been invaluable for Robin and her Clean Cities Coalition both as a learning experience and a true partnership. So without further ado, I would like to hand it over to Debra Wong. She is going to give you an overview of AAA and the AAA Greenlight Initiative.
DEBRA WONG: Thanks, Andrew, and thanks for organizing this Webinar and inviting me to speak to your group today. I thought I would start with just an overview of the AAA Federation. Not a lot of people know how AAA is organized.
So we've got—it is a federation of affiliated automobile clubs, and each club is independently run. They're all not-for-profit organizations, and each have their own charter and are incorporated in each of their states with—governed by their own board of directors. Most of the clubs were founded in the 19—early 1900s in their own state, and then the federation came into play about 1908.
In order to be affiliated with AAA, each club agrees to a certain standard of service to its members, so we have bylaws that all of us follow at a national level. The individual clubs own its own territory where it resides. Membership is based on that residence. Each set their own dues and the services that they provide.
So we're all pretty autonomous and work within our own territories for the most part, and then we come together under a national umbrella on certain issues, mostly policy issues, but each of us run our own clubs.
Although we're known primarily for, you know, insurance and roadside service, maps, that sort of thing, we also provide a lot of member benefits, travel services, and public services like volunteers, traffic safety, that sort of thing. Today, we—25% of U.S. households have AAA memberships, and more than 28% of Northern California—North American passenger vehicles—are AAA members.
So with that, AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah is who I represent today. We are the second largest club of all the AAAs, second to Southern California. We have just over 4 million members. A majority of them are in California; most of them actually are in the Bay Area. So that gives you kind of an idea of the size. I'm having trouble with these slide transitions.
All right, so just to start off, with Greenlight, we had a member survey in 2005 where we wanted to just gauge our members' attitudes about America's reliance on petroleum to fuel their passenger vehicles and also to get their response in alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles as a possible solution. This was during a time where gas prices were rising in California. A lot of members were concerned about our reliance on foreign oils and wanted to understand what other options were out there.
So we put out this survey to our members, and of all the questions we asked, we had the most resounding support for our role, our playing a leadership role in educating and advocating for alternative fuels. And so this really was the first point at which we decided we should really create some kind of program or initiative around this, and that's where the idea for our Greenlight Initiative came into play.
And so with that, we established the Greenlight Initiative in 2005. This is established by our club. And the mission was really to become a leader in promoting the development and understanding of alternative fuels and vehicles.
This is something that, you know, our members were asking about. We didn't see one player necessarily providing a lot of that information, and it really kind of fit really well with AAA's already established position as a trusted brand, where people—consumers—go for information, so it just was a natural fit for us.
And so some of the goals with the Greenlight Initiative, of course, it fits in AAA as a forward looking enterprise. Again being a 100-year old club, we definitely want to be seen as kind of cutting edge where we can, so this aligns us with a lot of those, you know, cutting-edge fuels and new technologies that are coming online.
We also wanted to differentiate our brand, so this is a way for us to also be competitive against other insurance companies who have similar products, but we're doing something a little bit different in the field.
We also wanted to serve as the objective resource for members and really become a one-stop resource for our members and consumers about alternative fuels and vehicles. We also wanted to become an information leader for other service organizations like our tow truck partners and other organizations in this area. And then finally, we wanted to leverage this enhanced brand value to create new and incremental business for ourselves.
So I just wanted to go over some of the programs that we have put into place. And I should back up by saying, you know, we have—I'm going to highlight just four, I think, of our major program areas, but with the Greenlight Initiative, we also converted our fleet of about 300 vehicles to hybrids, and we really wanted to make sure we were walking the walk—walking the talk with this program.
So one of the first things we did was convert our fleets. We have all hybrids; we have one plug-in hybrid in our fleet. We also offset those carbon emissions with TerraPass, so we have a carbon-neutral fleet. And now we're also working on things like right-sizing our emergency roadside fleet, so maybe instead of a tow truck coming out to service your vehicle, if you don't need to be towed in, you just have maybe a lockout or something, that maybe a smaller vehicle can service that.
So there's a lot of things that we are doing around the Greenlight Initiative, but I want to highlight just a few that I think would be of interest to the Clean Cities coalition.
So the first is the hybrid driver training that we've created. And this is a free seminar that we offer to our members and non-members to new owners of hybrid vehicles who maybe don't really understand the technology—aren't getting the mileage that they had expected.
So our automotive experts have put together this class. It's about three hours, and the first half is just kind of general instruction about the vehicle technology and differences between hybrid and a traditional gas-powered vehicle and then some tips on how to improve the mileage. And then after that they receive a one-on-one vehicle inspection and kind of get under the hood with a technician and go through the vehicle in the garage.
So we've had a lot of success with this program. In our surveys afterwards, attendees report that they improve their fuel economy from 15% to 20%. We've had this class now for four years. We have about five to eight classes each year—at least one in every one of our states. And last year alone, we had 120 people come through all of our hybrid driver training classes across our territory.
So this is a really popular class. They're mostly individuals. We have gone to some business parks like in the Silicon Valley, where employers maybe have employee incentives or credits for people who buy hybrids, so we've been able to partner with some businesses.
We love to work with fleets. We actually were approached by a San Francisco taxi company who is introducing hybrids into their fleet. So this is something that we have had a lot of success with and we'd love to see expand, so that's maybe something of interest to the Clean Cities.
We are also very active in our communities. So we created a showcase of alternative fuel vehicles, a lot of education around this to bring to our local events, where we usually have a booth maybe just selling insurance. So it's been a new way to present AAA and to provide information to consumers. We go to a lot of different local events, but our most popular and successful has been at the auto shows where people are looking at new vehicles that are coming out into the market, and we're presenting an alternative.
A lot of them—a lot of the vehicles in our display have been converted vehicles, so maybe they're older vehicles that have been converted to alternative fuels. We've also featured prototype vehicles like hydrogen fuel cell cars. But we do—when we do display the vehicles, we try to have an array of vehicles so we're balanced across all the different fuel types.
We really have created a self-service educational group, where, as you can see, in the lower picture some of our banners that we have created, and we try to just provide a really, you know, high-level overview of where the fuel comes from, maybe how it works in a vehicle. And this has been really great.
Consumers have tons of questions for us, and it has been a great way to get the information out there, and it seems like a good fit for us at the auto shows specifically. And we do a lot of the Motor Trend shows, the major Motor Trend shows in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Silicon Valley, and we're also at the San Francisco Auto Show. So a lot of community events that we're participating in and bringing this information to consumers that way.
And then we also have worked with legislators to declare November as Alternative Fuels Awareness Month. It started in California, and we really chose November as Alternative Fuels Awareness Month because our largest auto show event was in San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend.
And so we sort of—that was sort of the culmination of the activities, but all through the months we would also have our offices across our territory in all three states participating with information, posters like what you see in the photo, leading people to our URL or brochures in the offices and really raising awareness.
And we have expanded it just last year to include Utah, and this is where Robin Erickson really came into play here and our relationship with her. She was instrumental in getting the local leaders in Utah to declare November as Alternative Fuels Awareness Month in Utah, the first resolution of its kind there.
And this is, you know, not a place that we had really had a lot of activities before with Greenlight, and so it was great to have a local expert there to help guide us and navigate us through who we should contact, who the best people to get involved, that sort of thing. So that's one place where our relationship with her has been really, really helpful.
And she also helped put together the press conference that is in the photo on the top right with our local—with the Utah local leaders. And we had a press conference where the signing took place of the resolution, and she also got a lot of stakeholders to come out and support what they were doing there. And then the lower picture is our California resolution where we had Assemblyman Ira Ruskin authoring that bill for us, and we had a similar conference—press conference—at the San Francisco Auto Show.
And this year we would like to see that resolution passed in all three states, so we're looking to expand to Nevada for the first time and then get similar resolutions passed in Utah and California again. So that's another place where, you know, we can definitely work together with Clean Cities coalitions who are already experts in their local areas who know who the players are, and that is a really big help for us.
And it's a great way to raise awareness—get the media involved, you know. We really try to promote this in our local offices too, so there's a lot of opportunities to collaborate there as well.
And then finally I wanted to talk about our grants program. We did start a grants program in 2007, and we really wanted to help other organizations that are working in the area of alternative fuels and support them. Since 2007, we have distributed over $140,000 worth of grants to projects in California, Nevada, and Utah, and you can see some of our past winners listed here.
And the three areas that we—our grants program is open to is raising awareness, public awareness campaigns, vehicle conversions, and dedicated research. So it's open to academic institutions, universities, colleges, that level, and then government agencies and non-profits. And this has been a great way for us to also be introduced to the major players in this space and introduce us to a lot of great organizations including the Utah Clean Cities Coalition.
So that's how we met Robin in 2008 when she applied for a grant to convert the school bus that you see on the lower right-hand corner to run on CNG. And, you know, when we reviewed our applications, it really helped to have a recognizable name that we could associate with, and that certainly strengthens their application to know that it's part of the Clean Cities, nationally, and the DOE.
And also as the winner, Robin was really great in helping to promote the grant and raise awareness about what we were doing, what the school, you know, was gaining—what the school district was gaining, and also the Clean Cities was the applicant. So it was a great way to kind of promote what everyone was doing, and she was—she has done a great job of doing that with media and her own newsletters to remember. So that partner—that's how our partnership started, and we have continued to work together on different projects.
I also wanted to mention the City of San Francisco—Vandana Bali. I understand she is now the Clean Cities leader for San Francisco, and she actually applied for our first-year grant, and it was for a trilingual alternative fuels brochure. And we helped each other promote, you know, our programs and helped distribute her brochures, and we have continued that relationship.
She has helped us get vehicles for our alt fuel displays in San Francisco. She got us a CNG patrol car, which was sitting in our display and was really popular. So it's been—there has been a couple of those examples but a great opportunity for us to help support other organizations and also to start that partnership. So that's all I have for now to present. I'll turn it over to Robin to continue.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Okay, can anybody see me? Oh, here we go. Can you hear me?
ANDREW HUDGINS: Yep, you're good.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Wonderful. Andrew, thank you. Debra, you're awesome. So here we go. I was very fortunate two years ago to learn about the AAA Greenlight Initiative through the Salt Lake City mayor's office and the relationship between AAA's Greenlight representative, which was Rolayne Fairclough, and our communications director, Karen Hale, who is also a former senator in the State of Utah. So that's how my introduction came through with AAA.
The first year we applied for a grant was in 2008, and we applied for a CNG school bus in Sevier County School District, which is a rural part of Utah. It's probably mid part of the state. We were looking at a 30-passenger school bus for the children. We already had our CNG refueling infrastructure in place, so that was extremely helpful.
We wanted to make sure that if we were able to get this grant that there was an opportunity to expand this school bus going out to different events showing the other school districts—which we have 40 in the state of Utah—what they could do if they were running on a CNG school bus. And also it was helpful in displacing the petroleum and adding in the air-quality benefits in the rural part of the state. We requested a grant for $10,000, and our match portion with the school district was $56,000.
This is Rolayne right here off to the left. She was absolutely wonderful. We set up things working with her on the press conference. We were at the CNG refueling station as you can see off to the left.
In addition to that, Questar was one of the speakers, the president of Questar, Ron Jibson, and he paid for the children, which there are 30 of, and part of them are here; the other part are in eating. So they paid for 30 children to receive refreshments. So this is our promotion that we had going on at the time.
We were able to have a press conference. Rolayne conducted the press conference, and Clean Cities was instrumental in helping her with the press conference, getting people there, which we brought in the bus, their staff, 30 children. We had the school district there—community support—so about 60 people attended.
Representative McKay was a key speaker. Ron Jibson, the president of Questar, was a key speaker, and we had approximately five other alternative fuel vehicles on display. But we were able to develop our legislative relationship and commitment to the alternative fuels on this particular project.
In 2009, yea, we were lucky again. We applied for another grant. This was for the Salt Lake City government to have three T3 motion electric vehicles that would replace three police patrol cars, which they were reducing about 12,000 miles a year, so they were going to reduce their fuel consumption. This area in Salt Lake City is in non-attainment for both PM2.5 and ozone, so it was right in the center of the most heavily populated area of the state.
And the challenge was to bring these T3 motion electric vehicles in place, and then our Mayor Becker would go out and challenge other cities to start promoting alternative fuel vehicles. The grant was for $10,000; the match was for $21,000 for the three vehicles.
This was also where I was so fortunate to work with—okay, see over in this picture right here? There's Robin. That has our lieutenant governor, Mayor Becker, myself, and there's Debra right there, so I just wanted you to know who Debra was. We were able to work with Debra. She gave me draft of how we could do a proclamation with our governor in declaring November the month of Alternative Fuel Vehicle Awareness Month.
We prepared the draft, we had the governor sign off on the draft, we had four mayors' signature: Mayor Becker of Salt Lake City; Mayor Corroon, who now is running for governor of Salt Lake County; Mayor Billings of Provo; and Mayor Godfrey of Ogden City. All signed off on this proclamation. And then this is the booth that was prepared by AAA for us.
But here, this was an absolutely outstanding event. This was over at the Utah Women's Expo, and we declared our Alternative Fuel Vehicle Awareness Month. Rolayne conducted the meeting and the press conference, and we were there to help. Governor—Lieutenant Governor Bell was the keynote speaker. The balance of the mayors signed off on the declaration. They gave a check to Mayor Becker, and in our booth—we had a booth—a vehicle display, hybrid training, and AAA marketing materials.
Two things that are not in this slide that happened was Lieutenant Governor went over to the West Valley Police booth, and there was a T3 motion vehicle there that they had been using for a few months. And he was able to test it out, he got on it, he drove it around the event, the cameras followed him around through the event, and he says I'm going to have our state government buy some of these vehicles.
The second thing that happened is we came to the event probably about an hour early prior to anything opening, and there was a gentleman that was going to also be in the event in another booth, and he wanted to know what time the hybrid training was going on. So our first request of hybrid training came from a man that was going to come to the booth, which was absolutely wonderful. And I'm done.
ANDREW HUDGINS: All right. Thank you both, Debra and Robin. And I hope that gives you all, you know, a really good idea of a very successful partnership between Clean Cities coalition and their local AAA office. And again, as I talked about at the beginning, what we're trying to do with this Webinar and, you know, just trying within NREL and Clean Cities in general is to provide these type of examples for other coordinators to see: "Wow, that's a really good idea."
Or, you know, if coordinators have been thinking about, you know—AAA is a very recognizable name and organization and very well respected. And if coordinators have been wondering of, you know, "How can I as a Clean Cities coordinator become involved and really partner with my local AAA office?"—we personally feel this is a perfect model for that.
What Debra and her group out in California have done is awesome, which she spoke very well towards, and their ability to really complement the Clean Cities message. You know, we're trying to do the same thing: promote alternative fuels to consumers and to fleet operators.
And I think that as you saw, I think there's a really, really good opportunity that we can use Clean Cities resources to help further the message of this partnership in the hopes of building our relationship with AAA in the future.
And so the best way and the most efficient way I think that we can do that is anyone that's on the Webinar, if you're interested in possibly pursuing this type of partnership with a local AAA office, is to contact me to show your interest. I will work with Debra and her staff to work with that respective AAA office.
And we're doing that because, as Debra mentioned, Greenlight is not a national program. It's just in the region that Debra covers, and we want to make sure that partnership building is done in a very constructive way that respects the independence and priorities of each local AAA office. You know, like Clean Cities coalitions, we all have the same mission, but some operate in different fashions.
Some things just because of the region that you're in, you know, some things take priority over others, and the same is true for AAA. So we don't want to approach them with something that may or may not be of interest to them and kind of sour that relationship from the start.
So if there is interest, contact me, and we'll help coordinate on our end and AAA's end to schedule an introductory meeting between the interested coalition and their local AAA office. And as we continue to build that relationship, we'll be able to provide resources and support as these partnerships grow.
If you do visit the Greenlight Website that Debra put up there, and again we'll have the presentation posted on the coordinator toolbox so you can see that, they do a really great job of providing a lot of outreach materials to their members and to the general public. Again, it's the same message that Clean Cities is trying to do. So there will be a lot of resources available to coordinators as we try to foster new relationships.
So again, that's the point of today's Webinar is provide an example because sometimes as we think about new partnerships it's hard to sometimes grasp how you can approach a new organization, especially one that you don't think of again as a typical fleet organization.
But they have the ability to reach fleets, to reach consumers—the same groups and stakeholders that we're trying to reach. And so I think what they have presented today is a perfect example of how that partnership can be approached and effectively implemented.
So with that, I'd like to open it up for questions, and hopefully everyone has some questions that Debra and Robin can use their expertise to answer.
COORDINATOR: Thank you and if you would like to ask a question, please press star then 1 on your touchtone phone. Please be sure your line is unmuted and record your name when prompted. If you need to withdraw your request, press star 2. Once again, it's just star then 1. One moment please.
ANDREW HUDGINS: Okay, I guess as we're waiting, Debra or Robin, are there any other takeaways that you think coordinators should be aware of as they begin to think about maybe pursuing? You know, if they're interested, is there some barriers that you encountered as your partnership began that, you know, are good lessons learned perhaps?
ROBIN ERICKSON: Can you hear me?
ANDREW HUDGINS: Yes.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Well, first of all, one thing I'd like to share is, Debra shows in one of her slides, some of these educational banners, and what Debra and I have been working on the last year is how Clean Cities can use those banners at educational events whether they're vehicle displays or workshops.
So Debra and I right now are working on how we would incorporate those banners, and our operating committee is agreeing to purchase those banners, and they're just looking at some of the technical information to make sure this is—it meets all of their specs on everything that they know. And once they decide that it is okay, then we'll work with Debra, and we'll order out those banners to use at our events.
I thought they were very, very nice, especially the pull-up ones. And then people are able to look specifically at the fuel that they're interested in. So that has been very, very good for us.
DEBRA WONG: That's a great point, Robin, because I think with the Greenlight Initiative, you know, we knew that other organizations were doing great work in this area, so I think it's important to remember none of us want to reinvent the wheel. So to collaborate and leverage, you know, what is already being done is a really great opportunity for all organizations. We're all working towards the same goal, so for us to partner with Clean Cities, you know, there are great resources out there for us and vice versa, so I think it's a great way to look at it.
COORDINATOR: And as a reminder, to ask your questions, please press star 1 on your phone. The first question is from Sue Kupillas. Your line is open.
SUE KUPILLAS: Yeah, I'm from Oregon, and I was wondering, you mentioned which states have participated in the Greenlight program. I'm wondering have you had any interest from Oregon, or are you—would it be possible to apply for a grant and do a partnership here in Southern Oregon?
DEBRA WONG: Our grants are administered by our club, and so they have to stay within our territory of Northern California, Nevada, and Utah. But the Greenlight Initiative has been presented on a broad basis at national AAA conferences to different clubs, and a couple of the clubs have expressed interest, and I think one or two of them has reprinted some of the brochures and collateral that we've created. But we are the only club with a formal, you know, program and all of the other activities that I mentioned.
But I will say that AAA Oregon is another one of those green leaders and one of the more progressive clubs that we have, and I know they're doing some interesting things with green memberships. So they might be a club that would be interested. I have not talked to them directly, so that might be one that would be good to approach.
SUE KUPILLAS: Sure. Okay, thank you.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Debra, it's Robin. I have a question. The Hispanic brochure that is being used in Southern California, is there a way that the Clean Cities can have the opportunity to, you know, use that brochure, maybe try to incorporate that brochure in their states?
DEBRA WONG: Are you talking about the Greenlight brochure?
ROBIN ERICKSON: Well, yeah, I think—okay.
DEBRA WONG: Yeah, we do print—I think three of our major brochures are in Spanish, and we certainly have those available for use again by other organizations within our territory.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Are any of the banners in Hispanic or any of your handouts that you have on alternative fuels—in Spanish?
DEBRA WONG: At this time—oh, actually, that's a very good question. Our brochures are printed in Spanish, and we just printed some brochures in Spanish. We are kind of starting to expand our Greenlight message with and kind of pair it with our safety message, so we're moving towards a safer and greener advocacy message. And so some of the safer and greener banners that are being created this year are in Spanish.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Cool, thank you.
COORDINATOR: I would like to give one more reminder. To ask your questions, please press star then 1 on your phone. There are no further questions at this time.
ANDREW HUDGINS: Okay, well, I guess since nobody has any questions at this point, we'll just let you know that please contact Andrew Hudgins if you are interested in possibly pursuing this opportunity. Again, I think this is a really great way to leverage resources between organizations and support each other's message in our goals and the AAA goals.
And so again, please, if you have questions that pop up afterwards, just send me an e-mail. I'll send those, you know, if they're specifically for Robin or Debra, I can send those to them, and we'll get you a quick answer.
The Webinar will be put, again, on the coordinator toolbox, so that will be available to you should you want to view it again or, you know, sit down with your coalition staff to look it over. But again, if there's no other questions, I appreciate everybody's attendance, and I really appreciate Debra and Robin taking the time to tell us about their great partnership and all the good things that both of you have done.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Thank you.
DEBRA WONG: Thank you, Andrew and Robin.
ROBIN ERICKSON: Appreciate it.