A Service Heart

Danny Kilpatrick and his family.

Danny Kilpatrick’s childhood home in rural Mississippi was frequently warmed by “oven-heat.” He knows first-hand the fear and worry low-income households feel when their monthly utility bills are due. Danny serves a lot of customers in the Mississippi Delta, a region distressed by deep, systemic poverty. “The opportunities here are sparse or nonexistent. Many people can’t go anywhere else.” With his experience in one hand, and his faith in the other, Danny left a steady, corporate career and launched Utility Program Services (UPS) in 2018. UPS provides demand-side management (DSM) measures focused on serving low-income communities. Danny currently serves the customers of Entergy Mississippi, Mississippi Power Co., and Entergy Arkansas. This year, over 92% of their residential deliveries were in homes that received at least one form of assistance.

In 2013, SEEA partnered with the Mississippi Development Authority’s Energy & Natural Resources Division to build support for the adoption of Rule 29: Conservation and Energy Efficiency Programs, establishing Mississippi’s first, state-wide utility energy efficiency programs. The Quick Start phase of the rule encouraged utilities to implement energy efficiency programs in just three years. During that time, Danny was at job he enjoyed and was grateful for, managing business development and DSM programs for ICF International. However, when the Quick Start programs launched in 2014, he envisioned working with customers in a deeper way, beyond the constraints of fixed contracts. “If you have a service heart in the service business, then you’ll do well.” Danny tells the story of a visit with a customer a few months ago, in the height of summer. “She was sitting on her porch when I arrived at 2 p.m. on an August afternoon. I thought her air conditioner was broken, but I learned her electricity bill for July was one-third of her monthly income and she was on the porch because she could not afford to operate her air conditioner.” Danny provided the contracted service, tuning up her HVAC, but right away he noticed the root cause of her high utility bills. Her dryer vent was two feet from the condensing unit, which was coated with lint, and the mercury bulb thermostat was mounted to an uninsulated wall of the air handler closet, which was open to the attic. Knowing the difference it could make in this customer’s life, Danny made the necessary repairs. He says this is the reason he chose to be self-employed, “I just do what I do, and it speaks for itself.” His generosity ripples through his community and his family, a kindness that especially resonates during the holidays. SEEA’s president, Mandy Mahoney, recently received a hand-crafted bird house made by Danny and his daughter. The family tradition started nearly 15 years ago with his eldest son, Ethan after they received a bird house from a family friend. Danny estimates that he and his children have made over 1,200 bird houses. Now in his twenties, Ethan, with his business partner Jeremiah, has started his own energy efficiency business providing weatherization services to low income clients.

Since the adoption of Rule 29, Mississippi’s energy efficiency rank on ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard has risen six spots from 51 to 45, becoming one of the most improved states in the nation.