Published March 22, 2013
Burgeoning global growth is set to ignite a $37 trillion revolution in the energy market. And while the transformation is going to take decades, firms are already beginning to capitalize on it.
The world economy is forecast to nearly quadruple in size in the next half century, according to Citigroup (C) and the OECD. That rapid expansion, two-thirds of which will likely come from emerging countries, is going to take lots of power. And as it stands, many of these developing economies are particularly inefficient at converting energy into economic output. That means the countries that will be producing an outsize portion of global economic expansion waste the most energy as they grow.
Of course, entrepreneurs will step in to leverage the inefficiency – seeking to make a profit while doing it. In fact, in a recent research report, analysts at Citigroup called the coming changes an “investment megatrend.” The banking giant sees $37 trillion being invested between now and 2035 in a broad range of energy-related industries. Chief among them will be cleaning up power generation – with $6 trillion coming from renewables, such as solar and wind, alone.
Energy Transformation Transcends Utility Sector
But it’s not just utilities that are cashing in. Smaller companies that are marketing products and services that make incremental, yet still important, advances in energy efficiency are carving out a niche.
Enter Bright Power and ThinkEco. Both companies were finalists in the Take the HELM competition that featured growing, creative startups looking to set up shop in lower Manhattan.
Bright Power is an eight-year-old firm that assists apartment buildings in reducing power waste, coming into compliance with regulations and other energy consultancy services. The New York-based company sells proprietary benchmarking software it calls EnergyScoreCards that lets building owners input utility bills and compare the efficiency of their properties to others with similar characteristics.
“We can see the [buildings] that are worst, and the ones that are the best, and you see sometimes two three times difference between the best and the worst buildings,” Bright Power Founder and President Jeffrey Perlman said in an interview with FOX Business.
Perlman said Bright Power then focuses on the worst-performing buildings and makes “targeted interventions,” such as updating lighting, heating and sometimes installing solar systems to save operators money. Bright Power moves up the chain as power prices rise and efficiency gains provide big cost savings.
These relatively small adjustments are big business for Bright Power.
The company that employs 40 people took in revenue of $5 million last year. Meanwhile, sales have expanded 50% annually over the past five years, and Perlman said the company expects to double each year over the next half decade.
“We see power prices going up as an opportunity, especially as distributed generation like solar power and co-generation technologies get less expense,” Perlman said. “We see those curves crossing and really lots of opportunity for technologies and more efficiencies.”
Bright Power is presently seeking its first round of outside investment as it looks to ramp up its operations.
ThinkEco is taking a similar approach, but focusing on individual energy consumers. It markets products called the modlet and the modlet smartAC. The modlet – which stands for modern electric outlet – plugs into a standard power outlet and gives consumers remote control over devices via an online control panel and iPhone and Android apps. It automatically cuts power to devices when they’re not in use, lets users set schedules, and monitor power usage all with the goal of shaving down electric bills.
The home starter kit is available on ThinkEco’s website for $50, with additional modlets costing $44.95. A business pack that comes with five units and a two-year license for enterprise-level software costs $345. The four-year-old company that employs 20 people said the product is also available at Amazon.com (AMZN), Best Buy (BBY) and Wal-Mart’s (WMT) online store.
Modlet AC is an e-thermostat system that lets users remotely control their window air conditioning units, which are notoriously big energy drains. The company has forged a deal with New York utility behemoth Consolidated Edison (ED) to start a program called CoolNYC.
The program provides customers with incentives to give ConEd limited control over the temperature at which the air conditioning units turn on and off. The strategy is called “demand response,” and is part of smart grid solutions aimed at saving power and preventing brown outs when energy usage is at its highest, such as during the hottest days of summer.
“Through modern technologies, we’re educating people about how important it is to be more efficient about using electricity,” Jun Shimada, chief executive officer at ThinkEco said. “I think the market will expand as utilities are beginning to incorporate a lot of these modern technologies which make energy efficiency more accessible and readily available to most customers.”
Shimada likened the revolution taking place today in the power markets to the advent of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. He said in the same way that users learned to access information through apps and email, they will also get more comfortable with taking control of their energy footprints using newer tools.