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NRG is there for those eager to go off the energy grid

Among its many grand aspirations, Princeton-based NRG Energy is after the title of the nation’s largest residential solar company.

But like any lofty goal, becoming competitive with the major utilities in the residential space involves a formidable challenge: The interest on the consumer side isn’t completely there yet.

Heather Farber gets it — people use power for everything, but there’s not enough time in the day to consider where it’s coming from and perhaps compare the costs.But Farber, a managing director of NRG Retail’s eastern division, part of the global energy company, thinks there’s a good reason for people to reconsider having a sole reliance on the default utility.

“(The U.S. grid system) has been out there for over 100 years and it has remained essentially the same,” Farber said. “There hasn’t been a lot of innovation.”

NRG Home, the division of NRG Energy that offers an alternative electricity supplier customers can choose over utilities, was launched shortly after Hurricane Sandy, in late 2012.

“(During Sandy), we saw firsthand how people were without power for really extended periods of time,” she said. “And so much of that was because of their reliance on this antiquated grid system.

“That really served as impetus for us to say, ‘We want to be part of the solution; we want to give consumers better options.’”

The off-grid energy generation NRG Home utilizes — rooftop solar panels, fuel cells and microturbines — is being pitched as a way to reduce susceptibility to utility blackouts and dependence on the grid.

Besides the resilience aspect, the energy giant’s residential market push is in tandem with new self-imposed sustainability targets. These were announced when NRG Energy broke ground on the construction of its $40 million, 130,000-square-foot Princeton headquarters late last year.

The energy giant, which long relied on fossil fuels, plans to reduce emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. Meeting that objective will involve distributed renewable energy — and a great deal of it.

NRG Home’s role in the larger company’s energy goals is bolstered by another renewable energy asset subsidiary: NRG Renew, which handles utility-scale renewables projects.

Brett Johnson

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