Pick Your Free

Reliant looks to the future by offering free electricity and solar options

Flexible plans and free solar, all to keep your world running. Photo by MoMo Productions/Getty

Nearly everyone's energy usage has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not everyone's needs are the same. That's a big reason why Reliant retooled its "Pick Your Free" offerings this year, providing three different plans with free energy as part of the draw.

The fact that Reliant is the only retail electric provider in Texas to have three free time-of-use options isn't a surprise. The Houston-based company is known for leading innovation in the retail electricity space, and its latest plans only showcase that commitment — all while offering convenience for customers and supporting clean, renewable energy.

"Texas is predicted to be the leader in solar energy within the next five years," says Scott Burns, vice president of innovation and customer experience at Reliant. "We've been a leader in wind for a long time, but as demand for renewable energy grows, our latest product offerings allows consumers to support the growth of solar."

Make It Solar, which is normally a $6.99 monthly add-on to any Reliant plan, is now free with any new Pick Your Free plan sign-up. No solar panels are necessary, and 100 percent of a customer's electricity usage supports renewable energy in Texas and beyond through certified renewable energy certificates, or RECs.

"Younger generations are looking for ways to support cleaner energy and are conscious about who they do business with," says Burns. "We're committed to offering choices that appeal to our customers, so Make It Solar on the house just made sense."

Customers can pick from the new Reliant Truly Free Flex Days or its longstanding Truly Free Weekends and Truly Free Nights.

The first offers free electricity for the two highest-usage days each week (up to eight days a month!). The second provides free electricity every weekend, from 8 pm Friday to 12 am Monday, and the third gives customers free electricity every night from 8 pm to 6 am.

"There is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to any service, including electricity," says Burns. "With the changes the pandemic brought to our lifestyles, we're making it easier than ever for our customers and we're committed to meeting them where they are."

Burns also points out that solar has been slower to grow in Texas, mainly because of its cost. But while wind is generally produced at night, solar runs parallel to the demand for energy.

By offering their customers a free and easy way to experience solar, Reliant's electricity plans are creating more demand for the renewable resource, helping it become more prevalent.

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Sign up for one of the Pick Your Free plans and be automatically upgraded to Make It Solar at no additional cost by visiting Reliant.com or calling 1-866-Reliant.

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Building Houston

 
 

A Rice research team is tapping into materials science to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, a UH professor is developing a treatment for hereditary vision loss, and a BCM researcher is looking at stress and brain cancer. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

Research, perhaps now more than ever, is crucial to expanding and growing innovation in Houston — and it's happening across the city right under our noses.

In InnovationMap's latest roundup of research news, three Houston institutions are working on life-saving health care research thanks to new technologies.

Rice University scientists' groundbreaking alzheimer's study

Angel Martí (right) and his co-authors (from left) Utana Umezaki and Zhi Mei Sonia He have published their latest findings on Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease will affect nearly 14 million people in the U.S. by 2060. A group of scientists from Rice University are looking into a peptide associated with the disease, and their study was published in Chemical Science.

Angel Martí — a professor of chemistry, bioengineering, and materials science and nanoengineering and faculty director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program — and his team have developed a new approach using time-resolved spectroscopy and computational chemistry, according to a news release from Rice. The scientists "found experimental evidence of an alternative binding site on amyloid-beta aggregates, opening the door to the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s and other diseases associated with amyloid deposits."

Amyloid plaque deposits in the brain are a main feature of Alzheimer’s, per Rice.

“Amyloid-beta is a peptide that aggregates in the brains of people that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, forming these supramolecular nanoscale fibers, or fibrils” says Martí in the release. “Once they grow sufficiently, these fibrils precipitate and form what we call amyloid plaques.

“Understanding how molecules in general bind to amyloid-beta is particularly important not only for developing drugs that will bind with better affinity to its aggregates, but also for figuring out who the other players are that contribute to cerebral tissue toxicity,” he adds.

The National Science Foundation and the family of the late Professor Donald DuPré, a Houston-born Rice alumnus and former professor of chemistry at the University of Louisville, supported the research, which is explained more thoroughly on Rice's website.

University of Houston professor granted $1.6M for gene therapy treatment for rare eye disease

Muna Naash, a professor at UH, is hoping her research can result in treatment for a rare genetic disease that causes vision loss. Photo via UH.edu

A University of Houston researcher is working on a way to restore sight to those suffering from a rare genetic eye disease.

Muna Naash, the John S. Dunn Endowed Professor of biomedical engineering at UH, is expanding a method of gene therapy to potentially treat vision loss in patients with Usher Syndrome Type 2A, or USH2A, a rare genetic disease.

Naash has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Eye Institute to support her work. Mutations of the USH2A gene can include hearing loss from birth and progressive loss of vision, according to a news release from UH. Naash's work is looking at applying gene therapy — the introduction of a normal gene into cells to correct genetic disorders — to treat this genetic disease. There is not currently another treatment for USH2A.

“Our goal is to advance our current intravitreal gene therapy platform consisting of DNA nanoparticles/hyaluronic acid nanospheres to deliver large genes in order to develop safe and effective therapies for visual loss in Usher Syndrome Type 2A,” says Naash. “Developing an effective treatment for USH2A has been challenging due to its large coding sequence (15.8 kb) that has precluded its delivery using standard approaches and the presence of multiple isoforms with functions that are not fully understood."

BCM researcher on the impact of stress

This Baylor researcher is looking at the relationship between stress and brain cancer thanks to a new grant. Photo via Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Stress can impact the human body in a number of ways — from high blood pressure to hair loss — but one Houston scientist is looking into what happens to bodies in the long term, from age-related neurodegeneration to cancer.

Dr. Steven Boeynaems is assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. His lab is located at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, and he also is a part of the Therapeutic Innovation Center, the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

Recently, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, awarded Boeynaems a grant to continue his work studying how cells and organisms respond to stress.

“Any cell, in nature or in our bodies, during its existence, will have to deal with some conditions that deviate from its ideal environment,” Boeynaems says in a BCM press release. “The key issue that all cells face in such conditions is that they can no longer properly fold their proteins, and that leads to the abnormal clumping of proteins into aggregates. We have seen such aggregates occur in many species and under a variety of stress-related conditions, whether it is in a plant dealing with drought or in a human patient with aging-related Alzheimer’s disease."

Now, thanks to the CPRIT funding, he says his lab will now also venture into studying the role of cellular stress in brain cancer.

“A tumor is a very stressful environment for cells, and cancer cells need to continuously adapt to this stress to survive and/or metastasize,” he says in the release.

“Moreover, the same principles of toxic protein aggregation and protection through protein droplets seem to be at play here as well,” he continues. “We have studied protein droplets not only in humans but also in stress-tolerant organisms such as plants and bacteria for years now. We propose to build and leverage on that knowledge to come up with innovative new treatments for cancer patients.”

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