By Patric Carlsson – Gerbsman Partners BOIC advisor and CEO of Flexolvit.
Smart meters, datamining and cost awareness is driving the release of new, smart software that enables massive cost savings on energy for commercial property owners and private consumers alike. Companies like OPOWER, FuelFirst, Possitive America and Clean Urban Energy are leaning on the SaaS business model and behavioural and social science to enable 5 – 25% savings on private and commercial customers
New web based services, data minings and smart meters enables for a large, and concrete investment and M&A opportunity in the marketplace. Owning the direct dialog with the customer will enable scalable and profitable business models and incentive-based payouts on meassured results.
In the spring of 2011, the Boston-based OPOWER had approx. 600 000 active customers thorugh their service as launched in partnership with regional and national energy corporations. Using familiar strategies of get customers first and find ways to bill them later have generated interest of investors and media alike. With the modest ambition of increase cost effectiveness ranging from 1.3 to 5.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, the untapped potential of submetered promises in commercial building of around 20 % of total consumption and cost – the mere scratch on the surface OPOWER has made is very indicative.
FirstFuel, another Saas energyefficiancy company has chosen instead to focus on commerical properties. Using similarlly sociall and analytical webbased solutions, they act as samrt suggestions for “quick-fix” solutions lowering energy usage and cost around 7-10% for larger commercial property owners. The list of competitors and innovators is rapidly growing, companies like Clean Urban Energy and veteran company EnergyCap to mention a fed also uses the same set-up – use software to identify patterns that will save energy och money.
At the center of this emerging market segment is insight that draws on evidence from behavioural economics and psychology and social networks. Statistics has shown that Social, comparative energy consumption drives motivation and actual behavioural change. Collective purchasing and Social norms encourage broad-scale energy efficiancy though these new kinds of social networks. It also leans on the direct-feedback loop theory by crafting direct suggestions from statistics and incentives thorugh immediate rewards, rather then long-term payback. As user interface now is at the center of the web evolution, the simple touse, direct suggestions and incentives, actually meassure and validate a reduction of energy consumption and does save money.
What does it all mean?
Long established companies like Siemens, Schneider Electric, GE and Hitatchi has tradtitionally dominated the techical systems segment of the commercial property market by installing their stearing and monitoring systems. With these new competitive services that are being launched, The old-fashioned modell of installing isolated system in each building, focusing on the property management and stearing functions of each building or propery portfolio are struggeling to keep up on customer demand.
Large scale propery owners, as well as and private consumers for that sake, are seeing increased economic pressure from rising energy prises, increased demand of profits and marketshares from shareholders. Combined, the industry now are at a important threshold of old getting mixed and ourcompeted by these new kind of services. Energy corporations are much in the same situation – the lack of ability to communicate with each user generates a distance and disconnect.
Maturity of a cleantech segment.
Looking back a few years, green tech and cleantech segments have seen quite a shakeout in the infrastructure layer. The mautrity of winning concepts are settling in and new core technology have broadly started to replace old, in-efficient and polluting solutions. With the emergence of webbased services, connected stearing systems and smart meters a new highly scalable, and potentially profitable opportunity is quickly getting visable.
Likely scenarios and a large opportunity!
As a industry indsider, my views are colored. In some settings that might actually be a negative thing – here I view it as a blessing. The launching of a smart analysis SaaS company on the Scandinavian market during the last 24 months have given me the inside look of the severity of the situation for these large corporations that have dominated this segment for the last 25 years. Here are som points that I feel being the underlaying reason why there is an M&A opportunity in the near future.
- They lack the vision of what the web is capable of. Having relied on onsite installation and maintainance of each individual building, the connecting of each system has proven to be a giant challenge, To now launch webbased, userfriendly, smart solutions is proving to be more difficult then predicted. Old patterns and comfort is hard to shred. Innovatros are launching in rapid pace and prove that new concepts and simplicity makes greatest impact. The end-user, corporate or individual is willing to get the information presented in a easy-to-use way.
- Open standards and social networks generate large knowledgebases. Smart meters, open protocols for datatransmission and SaaS principles pushes the technology out to the individual that will make the difference in saving monety and energy. The new generation of companies are not held back by legacy systems and legacy contracts. The SaaS model is proving to be beneficial for energy corporations that struggles with public profile and direct dialogue with its users. The database driven services enables for broad statistical comparissons previously only available to power companies and such – service portals like those mentioned above harness large amounts of data to generate automatic analysis on patterns. This is a whole new ballgame for the older competitors
- Evolving business models are likely to generate a shakeoutLets face it, we know that every business needs to make moeny. Facebook and others have proven that there is a twist to it, attract vast numers of users and slowly but clearly insert business models on users interactions or results – and the income will start grow beyond what was previously possible. Looking at OPOWER and FirstFuel, the game of scale is in full swing. If you look at the european markets, who has had smart meters for 10 years readlly available for same kind of services – there is a plehtora of service and software vendors offering their services. The last 2 years the EPC (Energy Performance Contract) model is more and more making its entry. In short, service vendor and customer engage with a SaaS program over a defined period of time and verified savings are spilt between user and company. The scalability have proven to be enormously successful. Its a hit and miss market where skilled analysis can generate vast income in short amount of time on a very undeveloped market. The M&A discussions are very present on the european markets allready where smaller technology and service packaging is getting rolled into older structures to renew customer engagements in new ways.
With a such a clearly defined need as this, both from the corporate and government sida, as well as the private consumerside – its a scramble to reach for customers by the new, and purchase innovation to keep the customers from the old – the cycle is very familiar. The emergence of large property analysis organisations and the emergence of smart software with verifyable results is to hot to miss – there are billions of dollars up for grabs from those who can visualize the consumption and generate savings for all users.
To reach Patric Karlsson please email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Gerbsman Partners
Gerbsman Partners focuses on maximizing enterprise value for stakeholders and shareholders in under-performing, under-capitalized and under-valued companies and their Intellectual Property. Since 2001, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in maximizing value for 69 Technology, Life Science and Medical Device companies and their Intellectual Property, through its proprietary “Date Certain M&A Process” and has restructured/terminated over $800 million of real estate executory contracts and equipment lease/sub-debt obligations. Since inception, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in over $2.3 billion of financings, restructurings and M&A transactions.
Gerbsman Partners has offices and strategic alliances in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA, San Francisco, Orange County, Europe and Israel. For additional information please visit www.gerbsmanpartners.com.