Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Bogus Attempt To Cash In On Bogey's Fame

Middlebury-based Positive Energy, which provides Connecticut consumers with an alternative to purchasing electric power generation through Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, must have a desperate need for customers right now.

That's the only conclusion that I can draw from the company's announcement this week that they have hired former WTNH and WVIT consumer reporter Mike Boguslawski as vice president of consumer affairs. Clearly, Positive Energy is trying to trade on the local celebrity of the man that Connecticut television viewers used to call "Bogey."

Joseph Ventura, president and chief executive officer of Positive Energy, said that initially Boguslawski will bring attention to Positive Energy offers through advertising and engaging current and potential customers.

"Bogey was an easy choice to represent the company,” Ventura said. “He has been known as the people’s advocate in Connecticut for a long time. He has a reputation for always looking out for other people’s welfare, just as Positive Energy is always looking out for our customers’ welfare.”

But as anyone who watched Boguslawski's schtick knows, the man wasn't a traditional consumer reporter in any sense of the word. And I don't mean that in a positive sense, either.

Consumer reporters are supposed to extensively research the stories that they do. That way, they can determine whether a consumer's complaint is legitimate and whether the merchant who is the subject of the complaint has a track record of anti-consumer behavior.

But Boguslawski's reporting never played it that way.

The vast majority of his work consisted of him taking a single complaint and going to merchant against whom the complaint was made. Invariably, faced with prospect of being called out on television for shoddy treatment of a customer, the merchant would make agree to resolve the problem with the individual consumer.

"Bogey" would then give the merchant an on-air pat on the back along the lines of "Good for you Acme Inc." and the close with his trademark line. "I'm Mike Boguslawski and I'm in your corner."

There's no question that Boguslawski had an audience; you don't last more than two decades in the highly competitive business of television news without some kind of following.

But his so-called "consumer advocacy" had everything to do with the cult of personality and an ability to use local television as a bully pulpit.

Real consumer advocacy is practiced by people like George Gombossy, whose web site is affiliated with the New Haven Register and other newspapers around the state. Gombossy does his research and is tough on those who engage in anti-consumer practices; Boguslawski is like a lap dog by comparison.

But I digress from the real issue here: Why would a successful company like Positive Energy hire someone like Boguslawski who hasn't even worked in this market for more than a decade? Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes people forget.

The company has over 38,000 residential and commercial customers and over 400 employees. How many more new customers can a man who is hardly a household name in Connecticut any more possibly attract for Positive Energy?

Boguslawski, who was born and raised in Bristol, said in a written statement that "people in Connecticut know Bogey, and they know what they are getting with me.”

“They are getting honesty, integrity and someone who will fight for them," Boguslawski said. "It would not be my decision to represent any company unless they represented the best option for consumers of Connecticut.”

In his job with Positive Energy, Boguslawski won't have much opportunity to fight for the consumer, unless of course the company has a lot of complaints from customers.

Let's be frank: He's there to woo them to sign up with Positive Energy and draw a salary doing so. To suggest anything else is misleading and represents the kind of behavior that a real consumer advocate would find highly objectionable.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Shelton Solar Firm Bullish Despite Economic Conditions

While overall economic conditions may seem dreary, the chief executive officer of OPEL Solar says the sun is shining on the Shelton-based company, at least if interest in industrial scale power systems is any indication.

Lee Pierhal (shown at left) said interest in those systems, which OPEL Solar produces is coming from both North America and beyond.

"Since late 2008 when the credit markets first crashed, we have seen a significant increase in requests for quotes on both our solar panels and our ground-based and rooftop tracker systems." Pierhal said. "Clearly,this bodes well for both OPEL Solar, as a leading supplier of solar products and systems, and the solar power industry at large.”

The company has a $1.2 million system of 770 solar panels installed on the roof of Plainville's Linden Street Elementary school that was paid for with money from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and a federal tax credit. But nearly three-quarters of OPEL Solar's business comes from foreign countries.

Pierhal said he believes the increased interest in the company's products is the result of the completion last October of a 330-kilowatt utility grade solar power plant in Spain and its plans to participate in a 1-megawatt project in Portugal with a renewable energy company there.

OPEL Solar uses solar energy systems that have a tracking technology, which allows the solar panels to shift as the sun moves in the sky. Some of the tracking technology is manufactured by a contractor in Derby that has added about 25 jobs last year to keep up with the demand, according to company officials.
Instead of using solar panels that are made of silicon, which is the current standard for the industry, OPEL Solar has developed a technology that uses large plastic lenses to focus the sun’s rays on cells made of the compound gallium arsenide.The plastic lenses, which can withstand high levels of heat, act like a magnifying glass in focusing suns rays on the smaller gallium arsenide cells.