With Cash from Siemens and ArcelorMittal, Powerit Looks to Expand, Tap the Smart Grid

6/29/09

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about to jump, 10 minutes in advance, Olsson said. And the peaks are often extreme—a rate increase of as much as 100-fold, for example.

A third component of Powerit’s energy savings comes from “demand control,” Olsson said. This has to do with how utility companies set your bills. Electricity rates are based on peak usage times, not overall usage. So Powerit’s systems work to spread out energy usage or reduce energy use at their clients’ peak times, to lower their overall utility bills.

The company’s “automatic intelligence control system” relies on rules and priorities set by its clients, Olsson said, to ensure that high-priority equipment or appliances are kept running even during peak rates. So for example, if certain machines need to run continuously to maintain production, Powerit’s software will tweak heating or cooling appliances instead to reduce energy usage during peak times, and not touch the crucial machines.

This combination of energy efficiency and energy management makes Powerit unique, Olsson said. “On the industry side, knock on wood, we don’t have much competition,” he said.

Powerit’s connection to Siemens Venture Capital, a new investor, happened when Siemens built a biomedical company in San Diego. The company wanted to install an energy management system, and Siemens didn’t have one, so it bought one from Powerit.

Olsson hopes the recent funding will help Powerit expand in North America and Scandinavia, as well as in the rest of Europe, China, Brazil, and India. The firm is cautious about expanding too quickly, however, and has been talking to Siemens about being a channel partner to aid its expansion. Meanwhile, the investment by ArcelorMittal will help with the expansion too, Olsson said, as the steel company has factories around the world. “If we get channel partners, that can be a way to scale up faster without spending money,” he said.

The firm’s services cost on average $90,000, Olsson said, but can range up to $1 million, depending on the size and scope of the project. The typical payback time for customers is 10 to 18 months, and that doesn’t include incentives or rebates that vary region by region. Some customers, particularly in California, have installed Powerit’s technology and gotten the entire cost covered by incentives, he said.

Powerit came to Seattle because its original investor, the real estate company Stellar Holdings, was here, Olsson said. But Powerit doesn’t have many local customers, because energy in the Northwest is so cheap. Many of the company’s clients are in California—where energy costs are high and incentives abound—and on the East Coast. The Midwest is a growing market as well, Olsson said. The company’s customers include Frito Lay, IKEA, the San Jose Mercury News, and the organic food company Amy’s Kitchen, for which Powerit recently won the Connectivity Week Buildy Award. It has installed its products in around 100 locations in North America, and another 500 to 600 in Scandinavia.

“I think you’ll see us more and more out there,” Olsson said. “Everybody talks about the smart grid, and we’re there.”

Rachel Tompa is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. She can be reached at rmtompa@yahoo.com. Follow @

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