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Channeling Positive Energy

PowerOptions shifts its focus from energy purchasing to purchasing essentials for members.


Community Support


Staff at PowerOptions, the largest energy-buying consortium in New England, were concerned in early March that the looming pandemic would hit their region hard. As a trusted advisor to more than 450 nonprofit and public entities, the team at PowerOptions was quick to recognize the devasting impacts to many of its valued members, which include healthcare facilities, senior living communities, housing authorities, cultural institutions and educational entities—to name a few.

The PowerOptions team knew that many of its member organizations would not be focused on their energy purchasing plans during the constraints of a pandemic, so they quickly and instinctively switched the focus of their member support.

"As soon as our employees set up their remote offices in early March, we shifted our energy to what we could do for our members during this critical time," said Meg Lusardi, Executive Vice President at PowerOptions.

This included an initial email to all member organizations, followed by a personal phone call from PowerOptions staff. Members were asked to provide their "top needs" during this critical time, to determine how PowerOptions could best provide assistance.

As the PowerOptions team moved through the stages of contact with their members to gather information, the management team focused its energy on identifying funds to create an MCAP (Member Coronavirus Assistance Program). Those efforts resulted in $100,000 in the MCAP fund, which would be used to support members financially and materially with what they needed most.

Then, the team began procurement of a different kind. PPE and hand sanitizer were the items members had the highest need for, so PowerOptions began searching for economically viable and easily-obtainable supply. While facemasks were a bit trickier, due to production location and demand, the team was able to identify three local distilleries who had shifted their operations to produce hand sanitizer.

"We were excited to locate three local businesses to purchase hand sanitizer from because it's a great way to invest in our community and help small businesses stay afloat, while providing critical supplies to our members," Lusardi said.

In total, the PowerOptions team secured 20,000 facemasks and more than 100 gallons of hand sanitizer. As members complete an online request form for materials and quantities, the total supply is broken down and personally delivered to member organizations by PowerOptions staff across locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

"I'm so impressed with all of the work our members are doing. It seems like so many organizations were quick to pivot to serve the needs of their constituencies," said Walter Gray, Solar Program Manager at PowerOptions. "The YMCAs in particular are such a force of good between the temporary homeless shelters, meal service, child care, and so much more," he said, adding "I'm really glad we decided to do this and I appreciate that we're in such a fortunate position to be able to."

Lusardi saw this effort as being just another part of the team's commitment to their members—albeit slightly out of the traditional scope of services. "We're still a fully-operational non-profit ourselves, while others are facing the challenge of not being able to remain open and are uncertain as to if they'll survive," Lusardi said. "We're pleased to be able to shift our energy to support members in a way that will make this difficult time a little bit easier—and help them get through it."

PowerOptions was able to fulfill all requests—both financial and supply-related, with about 25% of the MCAP funds going toward supplies and 75% going to member financial support. Additionally, they proactively delivered financial support to those members in the healthcare and senior living sectors, knowing that they may not have been in a position to respond to the online form in time.

"I want to extend my great appreciation to the entire PowerOptions team, for the tremendous social responsibility role they have undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the excellent level of service they have provided to the CCRTA throughout the years," said Tom Cahir, Administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority. "This contribution will go a long way in assisting individuals impacted by the pandemic."

As the natural gas supplier for PowerOptions members, Direct Energy Business is proud to be a partner of a team like PowerOptions, who have provided such unique non-energy support for their members in the challenges of the COVID environment.




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