How Energy Service Companies Gain Clients’ Trust in ‘Green’ Products

June 15, 2015
For energy service companies, green products and services like renewable energy credits can be a hard sell, says Michael Hartofilis, co-founder of Greenlight Energy. Offering free trees, however, can help energy service companies gain clients’ trust. That’s what his company is doing.

For energy service companies, green products and services like renewable energy credits can be a hard sell, says Michael Hartofilis, co-founder of Greenlight Energy.

“There’s a stigma that green products and services are high cost,” he says.  “But we want to be a one-stop shopping center and overcome the stigma.” His company, like many other energy service companies, would like to offer renewable energy credits, for example.

“We found that trying to sell renewable energy credits hurts the sale,” he says. “Customers see it as an additional cost — even if the cost is minimal.”

However, offering a free green service changes the relationship with the customer, and could build trust in customers. And that trust could also lead to the sale of green products and services, he believes.

That’s why Greenlight Energy has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to offer the foundation’s Energy-Saving Trees program to customers.

Here’s how it works: Customers use an online tool to map their yard using satellite imagery and identify where to plant trees in ways that will save energy. Generally, the trees are planted to shade and cool a home, which can reduce air conditioning bills — and a utility’s peak demand.

To date, the Arbor Day Foundation has partnered with 20 utilities in 18 states, and Greenlight Energy is the first energy service company to take part in the program.

So far, about 80,000 trees have been distributed nationwide by 50,000 homeowners. Planting those trees will save about 171,397 MWh, according to Greenlight.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that properly placed trees can reduce energy costs by up to 20 percent.

Under Greenlight’s program, the company will offer qualified, new customers a 25 percent rate reduction on energy supply services and a free tree if they enroll between June 15 and July 15.

Of course, saving energy is not the only benefit of planting trees. They help improve water quality, reduce storm water runoff and spice up the look of a yard.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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