NRG bundles solar with water-saving products in California

Wed Apr 15, 2015 11:00am EDT
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LOS ANGELES, April 15 (Reuters) - NRG Energy Inc is turning California's devastating drought into a business opportunity.

The power company, which has a small but fast-growing rooftop solar business, is giving customers in parts of the Golden State the option to bundle a solar energy system with products and services that will help them conserve water.

The offering is part of NRG's new focus on providing products and services that give customers more control over their energy use. NRG Home was created last year as part of the company's reorganization. NRG tapped Washington strategist Steve McBee to lead the new business unit late last year.

NRG is partnering with Denver-based Rachio, a startup that makes a sprinkler controller that can be controlled from a smartphone. New and existing NRG solar customers can bundle their home solar panels with either a Rachio watering system or receive financial support for replacing their grass with drought-resistant plants.

"We view this as a start and a way for us to be there for our customers in an area that is a pain point right now," McBee said in an interview.

The bundles are available beginning on Wednesday in Fresno and San Diego and are expected to be expanded to other parts of the state.

NRG accelerated the rollout of the new offering by several weeks, according to McBee, after California Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month ordered residents and businesses to cut water use by 25 percent in the first mandatory statewide reduction in state history.

The state's drought is now entering its fourth year. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Matthew Lewis)