Just over a dozen people gathered on the second floor of City Bistro in Hoboken on July 14 with drinks and conversation flowing, but the topic was unusual – energy choice.
The small group was gathered for an informational session led by Weehawken resident and Viridian Energy consultant John LoPresto.
LoPresto and other area residents, including Weehawken Police Officer John DeCosmis, have become involved in a company that competes with bigger companies to provide electricity to residents.
At the Wednesday night meeting, most of the attendees were also involved in Viridian, making it a sort of powwow for a company that has independent consultants throughout the state trying to sign up consumers and break into the deregulated energy market in New Jersey.
Under New Jersey’s energy deregulation law, the supply and delivery portions of electric or natural gas bills are separated.
The company launched its initiative in the Garden State on May 9.
The company, one of over 30 offering third party energy alternatives to PSE&G in the Garden State, bills itself as a more environmentally friendly choice. It operates with a multi-level marketing or direct sales model similar to familiar household brands like Avon or Tupperware.
LoPresto, who has worked in various forms of direct sales for the past 20 years, said he has been involved with the deregulated energy market since its inception in New Jersey. In 1999, then-Gov. Christine Whitman signed an energy deregulation bill meant to break up the monopoly that public utility companies had over their consumers and to encourage competition.
Under the law, the supply and delivery portions of electric or natural gas bills were separated, and the supply portion was opened to competition, allowing customers to shop around for the best price.
Going green for the community
John DeCosmis said he became involved with Viridian a couple of months ago at a meeting similar to the one held at City Bistro.
A lifelong resident of the township, DeCosmis has become involved in a particular charitable component of the company. Every person who signs up as a customer and is involved with a particular non-profit organization, church, or school can have the company donate $2 a month to that organization as long as the customer stays with Viridian.
“With all of the budget cuts going on, I thought this would be a great way to raise money [to help non-profits],” said DeCosmis.
According to DeCosmis, the University of Connecticut actually helps fund its scholarship program with Viridian.
“It allows the organization to save money on the electric bill and then earn money,” he said. “And the person that signed up saves money at home.”
A graduate of the now defunct St. Joseph’s high school in West New York, DeCosmis added that he wished he could’ve been involved in this program prior to his alma mater going under, but now hopes he can help other schools. “I’d like to see the kids in brand new uniforms,” he said. “Scholarships, great awards dinners; they could do so much with this.”
DeCosmis has also signed up a friend and fellow St. Joe’s alum who lives in Weehawken as a consultant.
Mixed reviews and consumer education
Energy sites and forums online have mixed reviews about Viridian, with some criticizing its direct sales model. Others question the validity of the company’s natural energy sources.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities urges customers to educate themselves prior to signing up with any third-party energy supplier. They say you should find out about the length of contract, penalties, and additional fees, and then review the standard contract prior to signing up. For more information visit http://www.state.nj.us/bpu.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at email@example.com.