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

 
 

SurgWise is giving surgical teams the right support for hiring. Photo via Getty Images

A surgeon spends over a decade in school and residency perfecting their medical skills, but that education doesn't usually include human resources training. Yet, when it comes to placing candidates into surgical programs, the hiring responsibilities fell on the shoulders of surgeons.

Aimee Gardner, who has her PhD in organized psychology, saw this inefficiency first hand.

"I worked in a large surgery department in Dallas right out of graduate school and quickly learned how folks are selected into residency and fellowship programs and all the time that goes into it — time spent by physicians reviewing piles and piles of like paper applications and spending lots and lots and of hours interviewing like hundreds of candidates," Gardner tells InnovationMap. "I was just really shocked by the inefficiencies from just a business and workforce perspective."

And things have only gotten worse. There are more applicants hitting the scene every year and they are applying to more hospitals and programs. Future surgeons used to apply for 20 or so programs — now it’s more like 65 on average. According to her research, Gardner says reviewing these applications cost lots of time and money, specifically $100,000 to fill five spots annually just up to the interviewing phase of the process.

Five years ago, Gardner came up with a solution to this “application fever,” as she describes, and all the inefficiencies, and founded SurgWise Consulting, where she serves as president and CEO.

"We help provide assessments to help screen competencies and attributes that people care about," Gardner says. "(Those) are really hard to assess, but really differentiate people who really thrive in training in their careers and people who don't."

Aimee Gardner is the CEO and president of Houston-based SurgWise. Photo via surgwise.com

These are the non-technical skills, like the professionalism, interpersonal skills, and communication. While SurgWise began as a service-oriented consulting company, the company is now ready to tap technology to expand upon its solution. The work started out of Houston Methodist, and SurgWise is still working with surgery teams there. She says they've accumulated tons of data that can be leveraged and streamlined.

"We're now pivoting from a very intimate client approach to a more scalable offering. Every year we assess essentially around 80 percent of all the people applying to be future surgeons — those in pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and more,” Gardner says. “We’ve used kind of the last five years of data and experiences to create a more scalable, easy-to-integrate, and off-the-shelf solution.”

Gardner says her solution is critical for providing more equity in the hiring process.

“One of our goals was to create more equitable opportunities and platforms to assess folks because many of the traditional tools and processes that most people use in this space have lots of opportunity for bias and a high potential for disadvantaging individuals from underrepresented groups," she says. "For example, letters of recommendation are often a very insider status. If you went to some Ivy League or your parents were in health care and they know someone, you have that step up from a networking and socioeconomic status standpoint."

Personal statements and test scores are also inequitable, because they tend to be better submissions if people have money for coaching.

SurgWise hopes to lower the number of programs future surgeons apply to too to further streamline the process. She hopes to do this through an app and web tool that can matchmake people to the right program.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform for applicants to obtain a lot more information about the various places to which they apply to empower them to make more informed decisions, so that they don't have to apply to a hundred places," Gardner says. "We want to essentially create a match-style app that allows them to input some data and tell us 'here's what I'm looking for here are my career goals and any preferences I have.'”

While that tool is down the road, Gardner says SurgWise is full speed ahead toward launching the data-driven hiring platform. The bootstrapped company hopes to raise early venture funding this summer in order to hire and grow its team.

“As we continue to consider this app that I talked about and some of the other opportunities to scale to other specialties we're gonna start looking for a series A funding later this summer.”

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