Clean Power

Published on March 24th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Can’t Install Solar Panels On Your Home? Check Out Pear Energy!

March 24th, 2013 by  

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.

pear energyThis 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.)

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Arthur Lum

    This is a clear case of Stereographic reporting where someone who claims to be reporting news makes no effort to verify claims made by the subject. This is a very lazy and misleading way to report a story. I came here for verified information and not a regurgitated advertizement. Zachary might better call himself an Advertizement Copy Writer than a reporter. Does Zachary have a vested interest in reporting the truth or is he just getting advertizement money from the companies he “reports on”.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “This is a sponsored post”

      Try reading.

  • Someone_191

    Here’s another take on Pear energy: they rank Pear’s ads as a 4.8 on a measurement scale of 1-5 measuring how bogus an advertisement’s claims are. Note of course this is not “official” so, could itself be bogus 😉

    • Another one

      The greenwashing score is based on essentially one post. The objections it poses are mainly to the REC system.

  • Drjackpot

    Check out the Greenwashing Index comment on Pear Energy–bogus.

  • Louise Rollins

    The concept is sound, but their “ads” are deceiving – making the reader believe they will actually be USING 100% cleanly produced energy and it takes a bit of reading to find that your energy bill will be higher. Since the concept is sound, why not advertise it as it really is: you will be donating money to invest in wind and solar energy.

  • TVulgaris

    The BBB was the FIRST link I followed before I even landed here, after seeing the reference to Pear in another sponsored email (from National Memo, a progressivist rag.)

    The objections to promoting Pear would be valid were this investigative rather than promotional.

    The way I look at it, 2/3rds to 3/4s of all new businesses, especially those of unconventional model (and this is not a new model, but it’s certainly not conventional) aren’t viable past the first few years. So, as long as it’s honest (as best as we can determine, and the BBB and proper business dealings with their home state of FL are good places to start) this is worth promoting. RECs at the very small scale have been around for decades, we still need to promote the hell out of good ideas and get over being attached to a 100% success rate, just like the rest of the world.

  • Sir Real

    Thank you very much Carl for providing actual useful information!

  • pat

    I too found this article via a search in order to find more verified information on Pear – however, I also read on their website and above in item #5 that they answer their phone and reply to email.

    netgk give them a call or email them, ask for Michael Krawitz and provide and example the level of research skill you’re trying to instruct by reporting back.

    This article is very clear up front (before you get into the content) that it’s not an investigative piece and instead “sponsored” – seems you want someone else to write what you want instead of what they chose to write for a sponsor (with their reputation attached) – although we share the reason we came searching for more information on Pear… you lose me here.

  • I agree with netgk and abryanb. I came here through search results as I was trying to look up more legitimate information about this company. When I was younger, I was scammed by similar things in the past, so there is no way I’m going to give my money to an ad that appeared in my email inbox without some facts first.

    Like netgk pointed out repeatedly, this article does not satisfy our need, and that’s why it’s frustrating. We don’t want someone’s opinion, we want researched facts to assure us that it’s the right decision to participate in this.

    I think this company sounds great, and I’d love to use it, however, many great things are actually too good to be true, which is why we’re being so cautious about it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Why don’t you email Pear (the email link is up above) and ask them to furnish contact information for some of their customers and/or the organization to which they donate?

    • i’m really confused/surprised at these responses. from my experience covering these issues for years, this company seems great and is filling a useful need.

      without something like what Google (links below) is pushing for or community power laws, this is the best that the majority of the country has, in my opinion.

      i’m not in the business of auditing Pear’s books. i didn’t fill any need to check such level of specifics. but if you do, you can certainly contact them!

      if you want me to check on something that might benefit the majority of readers, i’m happy to do so — but confirming that they are donating to the organizations listed on their website doesn’t fit the bill, imho.

      Google links:

      And, actually, note that Google’s request doesn’t actually apply to residential customers. Naturally, though, as Karl-Friedrich notes, that would be a natural extension if utilities actually took Google’s suggestions and changed their models.

      • why are you harping on the 50%, that’s not at issue.

      • Reinmar, the reluctant skeptic

        I am surprised that in this whole heated msg chain no one has pointed out that the main problem with both the Pear Energy site and with Z Shahan’s blog is that neither of them explain clearly what Pear Energy does & how much money is going where. As far as I can ascertain, the customer’s energy payment continues going to their regular utility, while Pear Energy adds on “the cost of a cup of coffee per week” and divides up this small amount into (a) their take, (b) some payment for RECs, and (c) donations to worthy causes. I have no reason to doubt their claims about what they do with the money, but the real question is: is this just a way for them to make a small buck from people’s desire to feel better about the state of the world, while leaving status quo untouched in all substantive respects? The key to real change in this case would be to get the energy companies to invest (some of) their profits in renewables. I see no reason to think that is happening. The utilities are probably very happy to have Pear take over their billing for them & make customers feel good about themselves, while leaving the utilities themselves free to continue in their habits without any disturbance.

        If this is the case, it is classic green-washing, and hence a disservice, however sincere the CEO may be. The fact that BBB has received no complaints is entirely irrelevant, and Renewable Energy Certification from US Dept of Energy only means they are giving (perhaps only a few cents??) to legitimate wind farms etc.

        Zachary, or anyone else: if this is NOT the case & I have misinterpreted the obscure formulations on the Pear website, please explain. Thanks —

  • abryanb

    I just wanted to state that I agree with netgk. It’s quite possible that Pear Energy is honest about its operations, but you can’t always take someone at their word, especially when they stand to gain a profit from your business. That’s just common sense. I stumbled upon this article hoping to find out more about the company and that they had been researched and vetted, but this article doesn’t do that. Being that it is a relatively new company with no reviews that I have been able to find online (besides the testimonials on their own website), and that the company’s website itself looks like something that spam mail would direct you to, it’s hard to be 100% confident that everything is legit. That being said, I hope it is, and I will continue to try to find some real information before I switch.

  • crustacean

    Before going overboard, you might want to check the terms of service spelled out o the Pear Energy web site. Plod through to the sixth paragraph and you’ll find:

    “This agreement does not include retail electric generation services of any kind. Customer is solely responsible for maintaining its electric supply arrangements with the Electric Utility…PEAR has no electric supply obligation of any kind pursuant to this agreement.”

    Looks like what you’re buying is Pear Energy’s assurance that someone, somewhere generated some “green” energy. If any of it finds its way to your home, it’s sheer coincidence.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I read that as saying that the building owner is responsible for paying their utility bill, not Pear. If for some reason utilities to the building get shut off the building owner is responsible for getting them turned back on.

      That makes sense to me.

  • netgk

    As fanatical as I am about clean energy (it should be everyone’s #1 issue), I can’t view this piece as anything more than a puff-piece. Mr. Shahan just accepts everything that the CEO tells him. There is no checking of figures. Is the difference REALLY just the cost of “a cup of coffee”? (BTW, in my literature from Pear, it says “a cup of coffee PER WEEK.” Still not bad, but Shahan made it sound better than that.) Does Pear REALLY give 50% of its profits to nonprofit groups? Which ones?? I wanna know. Why doesn’t Shahan?? Lack of serious questioning is a huge red flag to me in deciding whether to trust Shahan’s free ad, I mean article.

    • I’m not an auditor, I’m a blogger. If you want to audit their financial records, feel free, but I have no inclination to do so. I really find this comment quite humorous, to be honest. I know it is meant to be a criticism (or a few), but let’s get real please.

      • netgk

        Zachary Shahan – Don’t flatter yourself. You’re an advertiser, not a blogger.

        • I advertise cleantech. I advertise climate action. I advertise companies and technologies I think are most fit for changing the orld for the better. Sometimes we even get money from these cleantech leaders. But we’re certainly very selective about who we do that with. If we didn’t think Pear Energy was awesome, we wouldn’t have partnered with them.

          But in any case, considered that I’ve published over 4,000 blog posts, and a very tiny percentage of them have been sponsored, I think it’s pretty darn clear that I am indeed a blogger. 😉

          • netgk

            I haven’t looked at your other columns. I’m talking about this one. Here, you’re just parroting whatever Pear tells you. If your goal is to be a Pear mouthpiece, then don’t change anything.

          • had a feeling you weren’t a regular reader & just stumbled here accidentally for some odd reason. i’m quite curious how that happened. of course, i could ask you, but who could trust the answer? perhaps i should start an investigation…

          • btw, you do know the purpose of an “interview,” right? if i thought the company was sketchy, i’d dig further. i don’t, so i’m happy to share the pretty straightforward information i got from the interview. none of it throws up a yellow or red flag.

          • netgk

            Yeah, an “interview” is where you ask penetrating questions and get answers. An “ad” is where you parrot what the CEO tells you. And a “shill” is the guy doing the parroting.

          • and a troll is…

          • netgk

            …Anyone with a legitimate criticism of your column.

          • lol. i think if you checked with other commenters here, you’d know that we’re extremely responsive to criticism. highly appreciated for that. however, when there’s nothing to back criticism, i’m not going to pretend there is. as i’ve stated in the article above, i’m a big fan of how Pear is going about doing what they’re doing. it’s a good service to the majority of people who can’t go solar. there are several things i love about the company — otherwise, 1) i wouldn’t have written this post, and 2) i wouldn’t have written it how i did.

            your concern has basically been (as stated) that we didn’t confirm that the company was donating over 50% of its profits to the organizations on its site. seriously? that’s borderline tin-foil-hat talk.

            again, no issue here with useful criticism or critique, but that is still 100% absurd to me.

            and i’m still very curious how this was your landing page for our site.

          • netgk

            The “50%” concern was, as I stated in my very first comment, a red flag, not the sum total of my concerns with your article. I was considering whether to go with Pear or not, and I was looking for impartial analysis. I Googled, found this page – which you somehow have trouble believing (!) – and I read your article, which elicited my comments above.

          • no, this is actually the first you’ve mentioned how you got here. i don’t disbelieve you, but you hadn’t indicated that.

            this company was founded by an academic, one who has spent many years trying to help the world through that realm. he founded the company to help the world — hard to believe? i guess if one is cynical. the CEO mentioned that they wanted to be leaders not just in getting more renewable energy in the US, but also as far as a business model goes — the 50% profits donated to helpful organizations is part of that (perhaps a bit idealistic? like something you might expect from an academic’s idealistic company?).

            i’ve worked with several entrepreneurs looking to change business models, so this really wasn’t a red flag to me, especially knowing who the founder was.

            different does not always equal red flag.

            too good to be true? not always.

            of course, if you have the opportunity to go solar yourself, i recommend that (even solar leasing if need be). but if you don’t have such an option, this is the next best option i’m aware of. it beats other REC programs. and it certainly beats the default / business as usual.

            if i can be of some genuine help to you, i’m happy to be. but the tip that i should audit this company’s donations is really not going to get you anywhere.

          • does it matter how we got here.

          • ahahahhahaha! lol!

          • btw, coming back to “interview” — this is very much a legitimate interview. i asked the questions i was interested in. i got useful and sometimes a bit surprising answers. i asked more questions and got more answers. i know enough about the subject matter to know when something lines up with reality, if something is plausible, and what is “noble” and good in this realm.

            seriously, i didn’t hold back and i didn’t leave anything off the table, and i didn’t feel the need to confirm their donations (absurd) by contacting the organizations that are publicly listed on their site.

            anyway, i’m done with this conversation, since we’re just going over the same things repeatedly and you haven’t really explained much about your real concerns.

          • so why doesn’t this interview answer any questions that a potential consumer might ask? I found nothing informative in this article only that it costs more, but with a so what attitude.

          • very nice! high five!

          • all of it does.

          • netgk

            Oh, you got me. I’m a … a … secret … um … whatever it is you’re thinking of. Hey, I heard about RECs googled it, and found this column. But if that seems suspicious to you, feel free to investigate all you want. It would be great if you’d put a fraction of that effort into researching your column.

          • i don’t think you got my point. it’s that you’re expecting me to treat you differently for some reason. ironic.

            i’ve read and written about RECs plenty. i’m well aware of them and the criticisms of them. and i’m quite enthusiastic about the approach Pear has taken here. but hey, don’t take my word for it. 😉

          • we won’t.

          • the link is listed as a credible source for Pear Energy, I found nothing in the article that would make me want to run out and sign up with this company. It was purely advertisement.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Time for you to quit spamming….

    • Sapphire Jones

      Pear lists the groups they give the money to on their website. I mean, not hard to check, dude.

      • netgk

        That doesn’t really answer my question. You’re doing what Zachary Shahan did, and just swallowing whatever the company says. I asked if Pear REALLY give 50% of its profits to nonprofit groups. You can’t find that out from the Pear web site alone. One would have to check with those companies listed to get confirmation.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If it’s important to you then do the research.

          • netgk

            Absolutely. No fact-checking going on here.

          • I talked to the CEO. He seemed like a very kind and honests man concerned about the climate situation, and focused on running a business that did things in a better way than the large majority of other companies. He told me that, by their tracking, they were actually giving away a little over 50% so far. I really don’t feel any need to check by auditing their books. But if you do, you are certainly free to.

          • netgk

            You set up a false choice, which is to either not check anything, which is what you’ve done, or to audit their books, which is very difficult. There is a reasonable alternative, and that is to check with at least some of the companies that Pear claims to give money to. Simply talking to the CEO doesn’t cut it, no matter how kind and honest he appears to be. Keep in mind that,in your column, you have taken his statements and phrased them as facts, such as “Pear Energy donates 50% of its profits to other great organizations.” If you’re not going to verify these things, then you can’t state them as facts. Instead, you can only state what you know, which is that the CEO says that they do these things. Stating it that way would have prevented you from being merely a shill for Pear. After all, it is important to get accurate information out to people about green energy. The last thing we want to do is to get people to make a choice they think is green, and then see them become disillusioned and give up on green energy altogether.

          • I have no idea what your issue with Pear Energy is, but I think your criticisms here are pretty absurd. Like I said before, if you don’t trust a statement from their CEO, feel free to go check it — I feel absolutely 0 need to do so.

          • netgk

            Don’t change the subject. My comments have not been directed at Pear, but at your merry lack of critical thought in this column. There is very little here that isn’t already on Pear’s web site. You are simply parroting what Pear says. Wanna see a good blog, with impartial analysis? Here’s an example: . I care a lot about the green energy movement, and we need to be careful every step of the way so that we make, and recommend, choices that we have been thoroughly checked out.

          • i’ve really got nothing to add. like i said, if you want to dig further, feel free to — i feel no need to do so here.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Spam-slapped. Try selling your fake medicine elsewhere.

          • netgk

            Bob, that web site showed that the “medicine” was, indeed, fake. That blogger analyzed the scientific research, or lack thereof, regarding the juice being marketed as some kind of miracle cure, and he found the claims to be unsupported. Anyone paying the least bit of attention to the words written there would have seen that the author was NOT selling this juice. You need to do more than just look at the pitchers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You are correct. I did not read that page carefully.

            That comes from my being very tired of your continued posts on the same point. You’ve made your point, Zach did not investigate a minor detail of the article.

            IMHO, big friggin’ deal.

            Your point is made. Now how about moving on to something else (hopefully constructive) or moving on to a blog you respect?

          • so he shouldn’t point out the error? wow! unbelievable! you both convinced me to stay clear of this company and will be telling everyone.

          • i’ve decided to give it to him, as it is supposedly a useful part of his argument. don’t think he’s trying to sell anything… as this would all be a waste of his tie if he was. but i’m still unsure how he landed here and what his actual issue is.

          • thk you netgk for pointing out that it is a fluff- piece. It answered none of my questions and parroted the site as you described.

          • “issue” shouldn’t we all be concerned if it is a legit company or not? Your comments makes me feel that this company isn’t what it claims to be. I’m going to have to pass on this one.

    • tryGreener

      Very good model to go green without a roof! Great blog. Regarding the PearEngery; question rises when read donating 50% profit. Does PearEnergy have meaning profit (it is just too easy to claim big perecentage if there is no meaningful profit)? Why not just treat their supports (customers) a cup of coffee a month instead of helping them to decide who gets donations?!

  • Omharisai

    The Pear idea is very good especially if the consumers are unable to install individual solar PV in their homes. Going co-operative and setting up of small solar companies that install and sell power could help relieve the power shortage. I do hope some enterprising persons could start such units here in Kerala, India. Despite its vast river potential, dams etc, Kerala, a green state, is facing a severe power crisis due to drought.

  • Love this idea. The Pear web site however, looks rather cartoonish – (Crayon fonts and colors, etc). The look and feel leads one to infer that it does not seem like a serious firm for grown ups. Concept is sound, though.

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