August 05. 2013 6:58PM

Resident Power will pay your Manchester parking meter just for the chance to talk to you

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader


MANCHESTER — They aren’t exactly Robin Hood of Keene, but the owners of Resident Power are taking a page from the playbook of the libertarian group as they prepare to pay parking meters for motorists in downtown Manchester on Wednesday.

It’s all part of a promotion by the energy broker or “aggregator,” one of the first to challenge PSNH for residential customers back in 2011. Since then the market has exploded with companies like ENH Power and North American Power taking advantage of low natural gas prices to chip away at the PSNH customer base for energy supply.

PSNH still delivers the power and is paid the delivery charge, but the competitors are now scooping up about 50 percent of the utility’s energy supply business — the dollars consumers pay for kilowatt hours used.

While better financed competitors are blanketing the airwaves and filling mailboxes with appeals to the remaining PSNH energy supply customers, Resident Power is resorting to what some call guerilla marketing.

“I would say that because we don’t have the budget that the big guys do, we have to be smarter about the dollars that we spend,” said Resident Power Managing Director Bart Fromuth.

Unlike Robin Hood of Keene, whose dispute with that city ended up in court earlier this summer, Resident Power has obtained all the necessary permits to operate its promotion from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Elm Street.

Fromuth said City Hall staff was very helpful in processing the company’s request for a sidewalk encumbrance permit. “From the city parking office, to the city clerk’s office and all the way to the mayor’s office, the city was very helpful in processing the request and even a bit intrigued if not excited about doing so,” Fromuth said. “The request caught the attention of Mayor Gatsas, who is expected to take the time to stop by the event on Wednesday to witness the public reaction to the promotion.”

Fromuth said a member of the company’s marketing team came up with the idea after witnessing a similar promotion in Needham, Mass., last year.

Five to six staff members from the company’s offices in Auburn will be on the prowl, watching for motorists to pull into a parking spot, offering to pay their parking for the duration of their visit, and promoting Resident Power’s energy supply services.

The company has permission to set up an informational booth in front of 816 Elm St., between Manchester and Merrimack streets. The promotion will be repeated Aug. 14, and Aug. 21, according to Fromuth.

He said the company has bounced back from a difficult time in February, when one of its suppliers, Power New England, defaulted in its obligations to the system operator of the New England power grid, resulting in confusion among customers.

At its peak, Resident Power had about 14,000 residential customers and is now at about 10,000, Fromuth said.

The company is currently offering a variable rate of 6.49 cents per kwh that can be adjusted monthly, and a six-month fixed rate of 7.25 cents.

“We have a very young and creative staff,” he said. “This was one of those ideas that is fun and exciting and gets us out in front of our customer base. We like to find more creative ways to reach out to the public rather than stuffing people’s mailboxes week after week with fliers.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com