Powering Strong Communities
Energy Efficiency

Smart Energy Provider Program

Smart Energy Provider Program

The Smart Energy Provider (SEP) program is a best practices designation for utilities that show commitment to and proficiency in efficiency, distributed energy resources, renewable energy, and environmental initiatives.

The purpose of the Smart Energy program is to provide national recognition of utility efforts to incorporate efficiencies and sustainability while providing affordable electric service. Additionally, achieving SEP designation will help public power utilities benchmark and evaluate their work on these topics against a set of industry best practices.

Currently, 97 Public Power utilities hold a SEP designation. View the list of all SEP-designated utilities.

About the SEP Disciplines

The SEP Application assesses utility commitment and practices across four disciplines: smart energy program planning, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, environmental and sustainability programs, and customer communication and education.

The application asks utilities to describe the leading practices for these disciplines in the following four sections:

  • Smart Energy Information: This section dives into how your utility structures its smart energy program, including how you establish goals and objectives and incorporate them into your operations; whether you engage in research and development in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability, DERs, or other smart energy topics; and how you benchmark these programs against utilities with similar attributes.
  • Energy Efficiency and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs):  This section asks utilities to describe the various methods of energy efficiency and DERs — such as supply-side and demand-side energy efficiency programs, demand response, and distributed generation and storage — that you offer to your customers. This section also asks utilities to identify any specific hard-to-reach audiences these programs target.
  • Environmental and Sustainability Programs/Initiatives: This section assesses how a utility works to reduce emissions and other adverse impacts to the environment. The application asks utilities to describe what types of programs they engage in and which stakeholders within the community they collaborate with to improve environmental performance. Utilities must also indicate whether they track and evaluate emissions and emission savings from smart energy programs.
  • Communication/Education and Customer Experience: This section asks utilities to describe how they communicate smart energy policy, procedures, and programs with customers and how they evaluate customer satisfaction with smart energy programs. This section also asks about any training a utility offers to customer service representatives to provide better customer experience in these programs.

Application questions are either “yes/no” or “select all that apply,” with several questions requiring more in-depth explanation or documentation. The SEP Application Guide provides guidelines for answering and scoring each application question.

The chart below shows how points are allocated among the four sections in the application. The scoring rubric for each question can be found in the SEP Application Guide.

 

SEP Criteria Point Allocation
SEP Criteria Point Allocation

Sample Questions:

  1. Does your utility engage in research and development on the topics of energy efficiency, distributed energy resources, and/or sustainability?
  2. Does your utility offer demand-side energy efficiency programs? If yes, which of the following demand-side energy efficiency programs does your utility offer?
  3. Does your utility track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its energy supply?
  4. Does your utility communicate your “smart energy” efforts to the community?

Online Application

Utilities must submit program applications through the online application system. New applicants must first register to access the online system. The SEP registration will open in November 2025. Once you’ve completed the registration survey, you’ll receive an email with your login information and instructions to access the SEP application. 

The SEP online application system enables you to assign one user to oversee the entire application and assign additional users to individual questions. You can answer each question, attach documentation, and track your progress as you complete the application. The online system saves previous applications, allowing you to import answers and attachments you previously submitted.

The SEP online application system is on the same platform as the RP3 application. If your utility has an RP3 account, you can access the SEP online system with your current RP3 login. Please note that you still have to register or reach out to APPA's SEP staff to have an SEP application added to your account.

Application, Application Guide, User Guides, and Other Resources

SEP Review Panel

Each application submitted is reviewed by an expert panel of public power representatives. The representatives are from diverse backgrounds and regions with substantial industry expertise in the smart energy program disciplines. Click here to view the list of current SEP Review Panel members.

Designation and Designation Period

The SEP designation is a pass or fail system. Designation is awarded to the utility if their application received a total score of 70 points or higher out of 100. SEP designations last for two years, and utilities that wish to maintain their SEP status must reapply every two years.

Application Timeline and Process

  1. December 1st - April 30th: Utilities complete application.
  2. Summer: SEP panel conducts application reviews.
  3. October or November: Smart Energy Provider Designation released at Customer Connections Conference.
  4. Next two years: Utilities maintain designation and promote recognition.

Payment

APPA collects an application fee to partially cover costs associated with processing, examining, and scoring submissions. The fee is dependent on APPA membership and the total number of customers your utility serves. The fee must be paid each time you apply for SEP.

Member:

  • Small Utility (< 5,000 customers): $250
  • Medium Utility (5,000-30,000 customers): $500
  • Large Utility (> 30,000 customers): $750

Non-Member: $2,250