Published on March 24th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan62
Can’t Install Solar Panels On Your Home? Check Out Pear Energy!
March 24th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
This is a sponsored post, which is why it is remaining at the top of the CleanTechnica home page all day today. That said, the fact that this post was sponsored did not alter my take on the company or what I’ve written below.
This is one of the most interesting companies I’ve run across in awhile, and it’s also one of the greenest and most socially responsible I’ve run across. Very briefly, Pear Energy finds electricity consumers who can’t “go solar” or “go wind” (install solar panels or wind turbines on their property), and it gets them lined up to buy electricity from solar farm or wind farm cooperatives (through their local utility).
I got on a call with Pear Energy’s CEO, Michael Krawitz, last week to discuss how exactly this works and find out more about the company. I think the 7 details below are only going to make you love this company more.
1. Pear Energy’s electricity providers are not just green, but they’re also small, cooperatively owned clean energy projects. Knowing that the U.S. doesn’t have nearly as many projects that fit this bill as countries like Denmark and Germany, I asked how they went about finding their suppliers. Michael told me that they have to do “a lot of digging to find farms that fit their profile.” But the company was started specifically in order to support green, cooperatively owned wind and solar farms, so it doesn’t cut corners or get lenient on that front.
2. Pear is nationwide. The company isn’t just focused on one particular region — it serves customers across the U.S. It is the only such company. In certain regions, there are some competitors, mostly connected to utilities aiming to meet their renewable energy requirements. But there’s nothing else nationwide that they (or we) are aware of. Michael said that the company’s customers are actually pretty evenly spread out across the country. I thought that was pretty interesting.
3. Pear’s #1 mission is to help stop global warming and climate change. Why start a new electricity sales model? Why go out on a limb trying to open up a whole new market? To fight global warming, of course. When talking with potential customers, Pear Energy representatives do mention other benefits, such as energy security, but their focus is on climate change, because that’s why they’re in the business they’re in anyway. Personally, I was thrilled to hear that. The messaging needs to get out there, and while it’s very popular for companies to tout their non-climate green benefits these days, the climate benefits are the most important — and people should be aware of that. As Michael said, “it’s about environmental sanity, ecological sanity.”
4. Nothing really changes on the consumer end — you just help to support the development of more clean energy. Your utility doesn’t actually change when you switch to Pear Energy — it’s not a utility company. Pear Energy employees work with your utility to get your green energy rolling into the grid, but you still get the same reliable electricity from the grid that you’ve always gotten. (If you’re not familiar with how the electric grid works, power plants send electricity into the grid and consumers pull it out — electricity from one specific power plant can’t be sent to one specific location on the grid. That’s just not how it works.)
5. Pear Energy has a wicked strong focus on customer support. Michael emphasized two things to me more than any other while on our call. The first was point #3 above, and the second was the company’s strong focus on customer service. It wants its customers to have an excellent and easy relationship with the company, and it’s not in the business of trying to game anyone or make their life more challenging. He joked, “we don’t want anyone to confuse us with a cable company, or telephone service company.” Also, as part of that, it doesn’t cost a customer anything to switch to their service or to switch back (as if you’d have any reason to do that). And here’s something I found on the Pear website: “You will always reach a human being when you call during business hours. If you email us, we will respond within one business day.”
6. Pear Energy is up front about how the price differs from that of a normal electricity customer. On the “How it works” page, the company writes, “Every month on your bill we show a side-by-side comparison of what you pay for clean energy versus what you would have paid if you were still buying coal, natural gas, OIL OR NUCLEAR-POWERED electricity from your utility.” While it’s often still a little more expensive to use clean energy, the costs have come down a lot, and the weekly price difference isn’t very noticeable — “about the price of a cup of coffee” for most people, Michael noted. Not bad. And if you factor in the pollution savings, health benefits, climate benefits, energy security benefits, etc., my bet is that you’re in the black.
7. Pear Energy donates 50% of its profits to other great organizations. Say what?! This is a zinger, imho. While some companies get all kinds of green or CSR cred for donating 1–3% of their profits to nonprofits, Pear Energy is donating at least 50%! That makes me want to sign up right this instant (only problem being that I don’t live in the U.S.). The company was basically building off of what other leading companies have done. “If we’re going to change the model, we should change the way companies work too,” Michael said. “We’ve probably actually beat the 50% in terms of our tracking, we’re a little ahead of the game.” That’s awesome.
I’ll just add a few more points that I think are rather important. Despite the huge majority of citizens supporting the idea of going solar and supporting solar and other clean energy sources more, a whopping 75% or so of residents can’t go solar. Renters, apartment dwellers, homeowners with inadequate roofs for solar power — there are many deterrents to greening your electricity supply. And, of course, installing a giant wind turbine is far more difficult and costly (for a normal homeowner) than installing a handful of solar panels. This is the solution I think many of you have been waiting for.
Lastly, Pear Energy says that enrollment just takes a few moments. Nobody has to come by your house to set up any special gadgets. Just pull out one of your recent utility bills and call or email the company. (Seriously, do it.)
Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report.
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.