FirstFuel’s Analytics Software Looks to Help Utilities Better Spend the Billions Allocated for Energy Efficiency
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the energy audit data across all of their properties at once and compare energy consumption at similar buildings to determine which ones should be targeted first. “They prioritize which buildings are wasting energy over others,” says Shah. And they can see exactly which energy functions—say lighting and cooling—are the biggest problems in a building.
If utilities can spend less money auditing buildings for energy efficiency, more of their budgets can go to rebates that help buildings pay for the cost of energy improvements, Shah says. “It’s not enough to get the information on what’s wrong—they can help you take action,” he says. “Utilities would rather spend their money on helping you, than on hundreds of auditors to give you information you may never act on.’”
Shah, who previously founded three enterprise software companies that went public or were acquired (Open Environment, WebSpective Software, and mValent), says he’s keeping utilities and government agencies as FirstFuel’s customer focus. There are more than 5.2 million commercial buildings across the country, and more and more states are mandating utilities act to reduce energy consumption, says Shah.
“Every building in this country has a utility supporting it—utilities become a really nice, scalable channel to get to a large number of buildings,” says Shah. FirstFuel will charge customers on a per-building basis for the initial audits and the continued use of its monitoring service.
The FirstFuel founding team, which also includes energy entrepreneur Ken Kolkebeck and Boston University professors Nalin Kulatilaka and Robert Kaufmann, got together early last year. The company nailed down about $500,000 in seed capital in the spring and a $250,000 Department of Energy grant to put towards developing its technology, says Shah. In September it announced a $2.4 venture financing from Battery Ventures and Nth Power.
The startup is currently working on pilot projects with three of the top 20 utilities in the country, and two government agencies, says Shah, who didn’t disclose the identity of any of the entities. If all goes well, FirstFuel will be on target to fully deploy its software with at least two organizations before the end of March, Shah says.