NRG Energy Wants to Help Customers Use Energy Smartly

NJ Spotlight News | December 24, 2013 | Energy & Environment
Jim Steffes of NRG Energy says the utility provider wants to keep customers for the long term.

Traditionally, utility companies covering specific geographical areas have served residents with their electric power. But that is changing in New Jersey with increasing options for consumers. One of the newer choices is NRG Energy, which provides power to a number of areas and has a headquarters in Princeton with more than 400 employees. Northeast Retail President Jim Steffes told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that NRG’s goal is to keep its customers over the long term and help them use energy in a smarter way.

According to Steffes, NRG has interests throughout the U.S. and has recently decided to focus on the northeast and New Jersey in particular. “We believe that we have some unique products, unique offers that I think can resonate with New Jersey consumers,” he said.

The focus of NRG is to have a customized approach for households and businesses. “So if we’re talking to a business owner in New Jersey, we’re gonna think about how we can lower their energy usage, lower their prices, think about using energy differently over the long term,” Steffes explained.

While energy companies need customers to use their products in order to make money, Steffes said NRG’s goal is to have a long-term relationship with customers and evolve that relationship to include offering new and different products. An example, according to Steffes, would be NRG’s offer of rooftop solar for certain customers that would give them free electricity — referred to as zero cent electricity — for any power not produced from their own solar panels.

“For a limited number of people, what we’re trying to do is just awaken the interest in NRG and all the distinctive products that we can offer,” Steffes explained. “If you’re willing to put solar on your roof with NRG and you meet the right requirements, then any energy that’s not produced by your solar panel for two years up to 10,000 kWh [killowatt hours], we’re gonna give you zero cent electricity. That’s a great offer. It’s a limited offer. But it’s something which is different.”

NRG also has a partnership with Nest Thermostat, which offers a learning thermostat. Steffes said the thermostat understands how you use energy and reduces use. “Our goal is to have you as a customer forever, but to do that in a way where we’re winning your business every single day. So sometimes that means what we’re really gonna help you with is lowering your usage so you get the best bill possible. So you decide NRG is the company you want to be with,” he explained.

NRG gets power from the wholesale market and it owns and operates more than 45,000 megawatts of power plants across the country. Methods include conventional coal and natural gas, as well as solar. Steffes said he believes solar is becoming more cost effective. While a very small amount of NRG’s power is from solar methods, Steffes said it will take a larger role in the future of electricity.

NRG plans to continue to operate its coal plants in an environmental and sustainable way, according to Steffes, since it’s part of today’s energy plan. But he said that may change with demand. “Consumers are gonna guide us down this path. They’re already doing it now. I think New Jersey’s number two in the amount of rooftop solar that’s going on in the country. They’re already saying, ‘This is where we wanna go.’ We’re gonna help them get there and as we get there, we’ll make the right energy choices, be whatever source we’re looking for,” he said.

Steffes explained that NRG can sell energy using local utility companies’ franchised wires.

“If a consumer is hooked up to PSEG, they’re gonna stay hooked up, they’re gonna get the same reliability from PSEG they’ve gotten, the same care from PSEG. They’re just getting energy from us now,” Steffes said. “We’re not just looking to compete against the electrons. We’re looking to help them with the thermostat, with getting smarter, with using energy more wisely. That’s really the goal of our business long term.”