FirstFuel’s Analytics Software Looks to Help Utilities Better Spend the Billions Allocated for Energy Efficiency

“Utilities have a big problem,” says Swapnil Shah, CEO and co-founder of Waltham, MA-based FirstFuel Software.

“They have a big pile of money they have to spend to achieve certain goals,” he continues. “If they don’t achieve it, they get penalized by the state.”

The goal is to increase home and commercial energy efficiency so that they don’t have to spend huge money building new power plants. And the “big pile of money” comes from a tax portion of utility bills that’s put aside to provide incentives to increase energy efficiency, says Shah. (That budget—across the roughly 30 states that participate—was $6.6 billion in 2010, more than double the $3.1 million pool from 2007.) About 40 percent of that budget on average goes to improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings, he says.

Utilities have been sending auditors to buildings to analyze the structure and energy use and recommend improvements, but that method is expensive, inconsistent, and not scalable across thousands of properties. It’s a particular problem for commercial buildings, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 to audit, compared to the $200 or so it takes to perform a residential energy audit, Shah says.

That’s where FirstFuel’s software comes in. The analytics engine just needs utilities to supply a building’s address and a year’s worth of energy consumption data, culled from the hourly meter readings at the buildings. FirstFuel pulls in hourly weather patterns from outside sources and uses GIS mapping and satellite imaging to determine a building’s physical attributes.

Using this information, the software creates detailed reports that show where exactly energy is going in a building, and can offer detailed recommendations on how to reduce energy consumption—either through changing behavior patterns in the buildings or retrofitting. All this is done without an auditor stepping foot in the building or installing any devices, which other energy monitoring technologies often rely on.

“It can analyze hundreds to thousands of buildings in the time it takes to do one on-site visit,” says Shah. “It makes it a very scalable service.”

FirstFuel’s data is reported via a portal that utilities and building managers log into, as a white label solution that is branded as the particular utility’s own. Utilities can see … Next Page »

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