US energy efficiency goes downscale

Joule Assets is combining its financing model with Enbala Power Network’s efficiency software to tap New York’s small business energy consumption market.

Joule Assets and Enbala Power Networks have partnered under a New York State initiative to demonstrate the potential for energy efficiency solutions in small-and-medium enterprises.

Enbala, based in Vancouver, has agreed to install behind-the-meter energy efficiency technology for 10 to 20 New York SMEs, with Joule set to finance the projects. The partnership is part of a demonstration for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is trying to find ways to reduce energy consumption by 23 percent compared to 2012 levels as part of the state's Reforming the Energy Vision initiative.

In New York, 99 percent of commercial enterprises are small to mid-sized businesses, and the energy used by commercial buildings accounts for two-thirds of the state's power consumption.

“What Joule has done is they've figured out how to approach these customers with some technology, finance it for them and help get it deployed more rapidly,” said Arthur Vos, chief executive of Enbala. “If we prove this out based on what we believe, it opens up a whole new segment of customers that can participate in these kinds of programmes.”

New York-based Joule was founded in 2010 to deploy capital into energy efficiency projects for small business, in an effort to cut energy consumption by improving lighting and air conditioning usage for retail stores, fast-food restaurants and entertainment centres. Instead of being paid an interest for its services, Joule takes a cut of the savings realised by the businesses it serves.

Enbala brings to the table a software platform that coordinates the control of energy-hungry assets in a given building, Vos said. “We help to optimise the performance of all those assets so that they work together and don't fight against each other, so to speak.”

“There's an internet of things in all of these pieces of equipment, from lights to thermostats to everything,” added Joule co-founder Dennis Quinn. “Why not take advantage of that capability as opposed to just putting in a system and not utilising the communication?”

The demonstration period will monitor the results from project sites across New York for 18 to 24 months. After collecting data, the two businesses hope to scale up the concept. 

Joule and Enbala believe that to take full advantage of the SME market, they must make the system as simple as possible. As Vos put it, scalability comes down to simplicity.