Energy Service Companies Greenlight Energy NYC Customers Street Image, How Energy Service Companies Gain Clients’ Trust in ‘Green’ Products

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.

By Lisa Cohn – View original article →, “Inspiring Stories: Tending Mother Nature’s Garden”

When people ask me what the key differentiator for successful business versus others, without fail I will tell them it is having clear, concrete and actionable corporate Core Values.

Our next featured profile is a brilliant example of how having those values becomes something inspirational, and truly transcends awesome.

Please tell us about yourself:

My name is Michael Hartofilis. I’m 30 years old, and I’m the Co-founder and Vice President of Greenlight Energy, an Energy Service Company based in Astoria, New York that supplies energy options to homes and businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

You are working on something pretty cool. Care to share a little bit about that?

I’ll be honest and say that we’re always looking for something cool to work on. The best way to do that is by establishing relationships with other organizations that have goals and products that are cool as well.

We just so happen to think that saving the planet is pretty cool, and for that reason we’ve partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation. Every customer that signs up with our services through that collaboration will receive a free tree that they can plant to help reduce their carbon footprint as well as reduce their energy costs.

What made you decide to follow that path?

We’re trying to engage our customers on a much more interactive level. There are a lot of third party suppliers out there offering gift cards or movie tickets as incentives to enroll with their services. Through our Energy-Saving Trees Program, we’re giving our customers a tree to physically plant, nurture, and grow with, so everyone wins, including our children.

What outcome do you hope to achieve?

We think the most direct and cost-effective way of going green is to simply add to Mother Nature’s garden and plant a tree.
Likeminded customers that share the same hope for our planet are customers for life. We feel like we can find those customers through our Energy-Saving Trees Program and possibly change the perspective of our thousands of current customers. There’s a lot of focus placed and money spent on green technology, and rightly so.

Walk us through your average day:

I have a long train commute, so I typically start my day by reading up on what’s going on in the industry. Then when I get into my office, I sit down and process raw data files from the 12+ utilities we work with and upload time sensitive invoice data so that they include this information on our customers’ consolidated utility bills. There are a lot of discussions on market trends and the best way to provide additional value to the customers we serve.

I wear many hats.
When we started this company, it was just my father and I for a while. After six years, we can now delegate a wide variety of duties to almost 20 employees. I kind of have my hand in a little bit of everything.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things would you bring?

I’m banking on this island having a palm tree for coconut sustenance.

Maybe a surfboard, because I don’t know how to surf.

A guitar, because I don’t know how to play.

And a Red Maple tree, because Greenlight Energy gave it to me for free and I’d want to turn that island into a home that I can inhabit until I’m old and gray and leave something special for the next soul.

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AM New York, “Career 180: The ‘Energetic’ Entrepreneur”

AM New York Discussion with Michael Hartofilis:

Michael Hartofilis understands New York City’s energy first-hand. After growing up working in the insurance business alongside his father, he developed an interest in saving his customers money on their utility bills. Six years ago, the father-and-son team founded Greenlight Energy, an Astoria-based energy service business that provides natural gas and electric to customers in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Hartofilis, 30, lives in Astoria.

What sparked your interest in the energy biz?

Prior to starting Greenlight Energy, I was 23 years old and working my way up in the health insurance industry, providing plans to small businesses. At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty in health care and the role of the sales agent, and it was also extremely competitive. The initial draw to energy was to get a competitive advantage in the insurance industry by saving customers on their utility bills in addition to their medical insurance. It was basically about finding ways to lower the customer’s bottom line, which is usually a good sell.

Why did you decide to take the leap?

The value of the services we could provide, as well as the potential to grow, became immediately apparent. And because we’d begun by providing only natural gas services through one utility in New York, there was a serious desire to expand our territories as well as the products we could provide. I knew the only way I could do that successfully was to become 100% invested in Greenlight Energy and leave the insurance industry behind. Whole hog, as they say.

What was the first step?

It was coming up with a company name. [My father and I] knew that we wanted to go the green route. I came up with Greenlight Energy mostly because we eventually wanted to get into providing green energy services. At the time, our resources were a little bit limited; we only recently started providing natural gas because it requires a great deal of capital to provide. For the first two years we were only providing natural gas services.

Why are you based in Astoria?

My father grew up in Astoria and he currently lives in Astoria as well, so the idea was I wanted him to be able to walk to the office. I’m also living here and this is where my father grew up. This is where our roots are, so it just makes sense that we should get a stronger presence here and kind of grow from here.

How is Greenlight moving toward providing renewable energy?

We’re currently reaching out to existing customers and new business, offering the opportunity to purchase their electricity supplies from 100% renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. Our goal is to have at least 50% of our customers green by 2017.

What was an unexpected challenge in getting into this biz?

One unforeseeable factor has been the volatility of energy markets. We’ve seen historic highs and lows in some markets since we started six years ago. As it turned out, the only predictable thing about the markets was how unpredictable they were. So we had to adapt fast and did so by signing up our customers with fixed rates for periods of 12 to 24 months. As a result, our customers knew exactly what their natural gas and electric supply rates would be every month and were no longer at the mercy of the markets.

What benefit does Greenlight Energy offer New Yorkers?

Over the last year, we’ve seen Con Edison’s electricity supply rates triple from one month to the next. We can protect our customers against this kind of volatility by locking them into a fixed rate for 12 to 24 months. This also allows the customer to budget their annual utility costs. Knowing how much you have to spend, how much you can save; these concerns seem to be more pressing than ever.

Why might people not sign up for your service?

Lack of information, I guess. There are some misconceptions running through the industry, one being that we’re stealing business away from the customer’s utility (Con Edison, et cetera). But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The local utility companies that deliver our customers’ natural gas and electricity actually endorse third party suppliers like us. And because of our lower operating costs and the opportunity to offer fixed plans, which the utilities cannot, we’re able to consistently provide our customers with stability and savings. We’re offering people something they can use, something that can positively impact their lives and I suppose that’s about the best anyone can do.

What do you like about your new job?

When I was in health insurance, I was working for myself, by myself. As nice as it is to reap the fruits of your own labor, I find it much more fulfilling to see what each of our 15 employees brings to the table every day, to see them growing and succeeding as a member of a team. All that I’ve experienced and learned in this business over the last six years, I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Any advice for readers considering a career 180?

I just wouldn’t be intimated by the unknown. Considering the resources we have now, [there is] access to all kinds of information. And I’m not just talking about Google. You can find somebody in a specific industry or field on LinkedIn and these people are willing to talk to you, especially young people who are looking to get into that field. Do your research and the information is there.

By HEATHER SENISON – Visit original article →