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Energy Innovators: Ringing in an Age of Enlightenment

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1999

to see someone shooting a fuzzy planet, our sort of icon, through a basketball hoop, while somebody on the phone one cubicle away is negotiating a power supply agreement. ¼

How does your managerial style support innovation at the company?

Again, I intend and will keep a flat organization. I'm repeating myself only because it's important. ¼

A practice that I inherited but that I really like is that every Tuesday we have a company-wide meeting we call the "common sense" meeting. Everybody in the company and a lot of our partners are allowed to participate. We set the agenda and it's an open forum for people to talk about what's on their minds, what's going on. ¼ That company-wide meeting is a very important part of our culture.

Do you have any plans to expand your focus beyond residential customers?

Yes, we do. We actually have some commercial and industrial customers. We've announced that Birkenstock in California has signed up with us; we've signed up a hundred Kinko's stores in California. ¼ We are very interested in the commercial and industrial, but building from the [residential] consumer up. ¼

Among its mission goals, Green Mountain aims to engage in policy work on energy issues. Can you describe your activities there?

Yes, we're very active on the local level in the states that we're involved in, as well as on the national level, working with people like NEMA [National Energy Marketers Association] and others, to make sure that we have the ability to really effect our mission. Our mission is to clean the air by changing the way power is made, and we think the right way to do that is by giving consumers choice. Consumer choice, based on sound economics - that's the way to permanently sustain change in the way power's made. ¼

Since many older coal-fired plants are exempt from tough pollution standards, will deregulation mean cleaner or dirtier air for Americans?

I think because of folks like Green Mountain, deregulation can only mean cleaner air. ¼ Customers now will choose, and in choosing will become educated on the fact that a lot of their energy comes from coal plants that were grandfathered in and not subject to the Clean Air Act. ¼ That's our dream, that's our hope and that's what we get up and come to work everyday for.

Is that what drives Green Mountain's staff?

That's exactly right. But we are a for-profit company. We understand very directly that what we do, we have to create shareholder value at the same time, which is why we think our idea is sustainable. If we can be a profitable company doing this, then the change will be permanent and sustainable.

The Green Mountain Solar program markets photovoltaic systems. What about fuel cells?

We have been and continue to be in discussions with a number of people in the fuel cells area. ¼ We've got some good ideas we've learned from solar about how we can use [fuel cells] as distributed generation in a way that actually ties in