During the seventies, electricity was a relatively inexpensive commodity, and electric companies aggressively expanded their marketing of electric heat. In the following decade, however, during the first energy crisis, the price of electricity rose rapidly and it was suddenly a very expensive way to heat a home. Energy companies were caught between the upward price pressure on their fuels and public indignation over retail energy costs. This brought greater public pressure on regulatory bodies and greater scrutiny of energy companies. In particular, any attempt by energy companies to increase energy usage by the public was strongly discouraged by PUCO in Ohio. However, most energy companies are privately held enterprises, and need growth to survive.
This was the problem posed to us in 1988 by Toledo Edison: How to stimulate more electricity business without running afoul of sensitive environmental and regulatory concerns?
Our answer: promote electrically-generated microwave energy. The use of microwave ovens for cooking succeeds in stealing market share from other fuels and is actually more energy efficient than natural gas, thus creating both a net reduction in energy usage and a net increase in electricity billings.
The practical implementation of this strategy was the Toledo Edison Microwave Cooking School. A demonstration kitchen/classroom was constructed in the Edison Building and nightly classes in microwave cooking were held. Attendance was by reservation only (30 students per session) and classes were conducted by Toledo Edison's in-house home economist. Promotional countercards with return reservation forms were placed in retail stores selling microwave appliances, and literature was packaged with all new microwaves sold. Heavy newspaper advertising in Toledo and suburban papers promoted the school. Posters and other promotional literature weredeveloped for Toledo Edison's suburban offices, where many rural residents still went to pay their electric bills. Emphasis was placed on developing and publishing a large variety of recipes and meal combinations to appeal to all ages and demographic/ethnic groups. These and other giveaway items were distributed at the classes. The school operated at maximum capacity until Toledo Edison's subsequent takeover and move to Cleveland.