Renovations are underway to make room for the winners of GMP's Inspire Space contest

Renovations are underway at GMP’s Colchester HQ to make room for the winners of the Inspire Space contest

Green Mountain Power is looking for officemates — not to share the bills, but to share new ideas about the energy biz.

Last week, GMP launched the Inspire Space contest to attract new workers to its Colchester HQ. The company plans to select up to five entrepreneurs or startups in the electrical energy sector who commit to locating in Vermont for at least a year. These so-called “energy pioneers” will benefit from free rent, free parking, free internet and other utilities. In return, they’ll share ideas about new energy technologies and clean energy solutions with the team from GMP.

The company has a reputation for thinking outside the box. Owned by Montréal-based Gaz Métro, GMP is the first B-Corp-certified public utility. It’s the first utility to partner with electric-car-maker Tesla to offer its customers the Powerwall home battery. It’s investing in community solar projects, and it’s working on helping ratepayers renovate their houses so that they use less energy. Environmentalist Bill McKibben lauded GMP’s energy-saving strategies last summer in the New Yorker.

GMP’s office space is also unusual. In his piece, McKibben notes that CEO Mary Powell works, not in a corner office, but at a standing desk alongside the company’s customer service reps. In an interview about the office space contest, Powell noted that there are “no walls” in GMP’s HQ. The floor plan encourages both transparency and collaboration. She said company leaders realized recently that “if we all cuddled together a little bit closer,” they could free up about 1,300 square feet of space to make room for other entrepreneurs.

She thought the offer would spark interest because of GMP’s efficiency efforts — “Nobody else is doing this stuff,” she said.

Powell pointed out that complementary teams, working in the same space, might be able to discover opportunities for partnerships that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent to GMP. “What they can produce [together] is much greater than what any group on its own can do,” she said.

Powell said the contest grew out of GMP’s sponsorship of community events like Hack VT and last year’s Vermont Tech Jam. In talking with members of the tech community, she and others at GMP realized that shared office spaces and coworking spaces like VCET, the Karma Bird House and Excelerate Essex played a valuable role in fostering innovation and economic development. But rather than create another space for local entrepreneurs, GMP might be able leverage its national reputation to attract energy-related startups to the area.

What kind of companies are best-positioned to win the space? Powell said she was open to anyone working in the electrical energy field — it could be someone developing new battery technology, or new ways of monitoring or displaying information. She added that GMP is not looking to acquire intellectual property — the goal is to form mutually beneficial partnerships, like the one the company has with Tesla.

Interested in cohabitating with GMP? Visit this website and apply by May 15 — and spread the word, especially to your out-of-state friends.