With Philly as test market — and tech toys in hand — NRG aims for electric ‘engagement’

An electricity company is using Philadelphia as a launch pad for a new service.

NRG Residential Solutions is not unique in challenging the big boys for market share, but it is taking a decidedly techy approach to wooing new customers.

NRG Residential Solutions president Jim Steffes says the digital revolution has caught up to the residential electricity market — and consumers stand to benefit.

“We’re going to give them that power to be customized [and] in control, with devices and solutions that work for them at their home,” Steffes said.

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Chief among those devices is Nest, a sleek and, yes, sexy thermostat you can control from a smartphone. It even learns your habits over time.

The high-tech thermostat, a splashy partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles and even pricing gimmicks including “2-cent Sundays” are the touchstones of what Steffes calls an engaging new approach to using electricity at home.

“The ability for a consumer to change what they’re doing — to think [about] and use energy differently — we’re going to help them have that conversation,” said Steffes. “It’s not something that happens overnight.”

Customizable plans and the partnership with Nest are moves Roger Kranenburg sees as both innovative and novel. He’s a national power analyst with the research firm IHS.

“It’s trying to use technology to, essentially, address some of the shortcomings of asking consumers to change their behaviors,” said Kranenburg. 

But whether that technological approach will work remains to be seen, Kranenburg says.

“I think that’s a challenge,” he said. “How do you make something as taken-for-granted and boring as electricity engaging?”

NRG Residential Solutions will try it out in Philly first, before expanding the new brand across the Northeast. The company is planning a major marketing push for mid-September.

You can learn more at nrgresidentialsolutions.com.

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