Competitive energy supplier Direct Energy acquired energy management startup Panoramic Power for $60 million last week to help its commercial and industrial customers use less energy.
Energy retailers and utilities are increasingly looking to differentiate themselves as customers demand more sophisticated offerings from their energy providers, particularly in the commercial sector.
Panoramic Power has wireless sensors that gather energy information at the circuit level and deliver it in real time. The company then provides reporting and analytics that can help businesses, from manufacturing to retail, lower their spending on energy.
The technology can interface with an existing building management system (BMS) or provide a cheaper alternative to a BMS altogether.
But the offering goes beyond energy, said Todd Sandford, VP of energy solutions and customer operations for Direct Energy Business. “These customers can unearth operational efficiencies that have nothing to do with energy efficiency and equipment maintenance,” he said.
For a factory, that could be identifying how equipment is used during the manufacturing process to identify new key performance indicators. That sort of granularity is not possible with software-only approaches, he added, which was why Direct Energy purchased Panoramic Power after partnering with the startup for the past year and a half.
The technology has already helped some Direct Energy customers unlock about 10 percent to 15 percent savings, said Sandford. As the cost of sensors continues to fall, the prices of these kinds of offerings have gotten cheaper as well.
Direct Energy will roll out the offering using different financing models, including a no-money-down, energy-management-as-a-service option.
For some energy retailers, value-added services are about customer retention. Direct Energy, which is owned by Centrica, wants to help customers buy less energy, rather than craft offerings just to reduce churn. Both are important to the energy supplier.
Other members of the Centrica family are taking a software-heavy approach to energy-efficiency offerings. British Gas, for instance, chose Pulse Energy last year to offer efficiency insights for its commercial customers. The approach is a lower-touch approach compared to the sensors that Panoramic uses; however, it can be rolled out faster to far more customers as a first-step offering.
It’s not just retailers that are making investments in new energy efficiency technologies for the commercial market. Last month, Duke Energy acquired Phoenix Energy Technologies, an enterprise-level commercial energy management platform. ESCOs are also beefing up their offerings. Ecova acquired efficiency analytics startup Retroficiency in October.
Panoramic Power had raised a total of about $26 million from Israel Cleantech Ventures, Israel Electric Corporation, Clal Energy, Autodesk, Marker, Greylock Partners, 83North and Qualcomm Ventures.