Ecova, a large provider of energy and sustainability management services, acquired efficiency analytics startup Retroficiency for an undisclosed sum on Wednesday. Retroficiency will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Retroficiency’s energy-efficiency analytics will be used to crunch data from Ecova’s more than 700,000 building sites in North America. “Retroficiency helps us take all of that data and turn it into insight and action,” said Ecova CEO Jana Schmidt.

Commercial customers are looking for more actionable insights on managing energy costs and where to invest in projects across their portfolio, making data more valuable. The data from companies like Retroficiency can help inform utilities about where best to spend efficiency dollars or support distributed energy projects.

“While Ecova has achieved success in leading the market in many ways,” said Schmidt, “I still feel the opportunity in front of us feels very startup-ish.” Ecova itself was acquired by global independent power producer Engie (formerly GDF Suez) last year and slotted into its efficiency group, Cofely.

As the efficiency market matures and competition gets more intense, Retroficiency had to either raise more funds or pursue an acquisition. Late last year, EnerNOC acquired Pulse Energy to expand its small and medium-size commercial offering to compete for utility efficiency business. Energy auditing company FirstFuel raised an additional $23 million earlier this year and is working with Opower.

Retroficiency has raised a total of $7.3 million from Point Judith Capital and angel investors.

Along with bringing deeper analytics to a broader selection of commercial clients, the acquisition gives Retroficiency the opportunity to grow its utility-facing business, which is also a focus for Ecova. “And then there’s the blend -- bringing corporate relationships to utilities,” said Bennett Fisher, CEO of Retroficiency. 

The goal of bringing commercial building data to utilities has been a priority for Ecova for some time.

“The market disruption in utilities is creating very strong opportunities for a company like Ecova,” said Schmidt. “We have long dreamt of a time that supporting a utility would also mean supporting the C&I customers in that territory.”

That day is also dawning in states like California and New York, which are aligning utility business models to support more comprehensive energy efficiency and distributed energy resource markets.

In New York, for instance, Retroficiency is working with Con Edison on its Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management program, which seeks to defer a $1 billion substation with solutions at the grid edge. The utility has already seen a fourfold increase in customer engagement and a shortened sales cycle by working with Retroficiency. 

As part of demonstration projects for New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, Retroficiency will develop a cloud-based marketplace in which commercial customers can receive specific, actionable insights for energy conservation, as well as connections to market partners that can carry out those retrofits. It will be rolled out to approximately 2,100 buildings in 2016.

“Retroficiency’s relationship with Con Edison is very important to us,” said Schmidt. She noted that Ecova has thousands of buildings in New York City, including iconic and global brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue.

Global growth is on everyone’s minds. Ecova, formerly owned by Avista, was looking for an owner to help expand business abroad. Ecova now has offices in London and Paris and is moving into Latin America.

French-owned Engie wants to stake a larger claim in the budding North American market. U.S. utilities spent $4.8 billion on energy-efficiency programs and initiatives in 2012, and that funding is set to double by 2025.

Earlier this year, Engie invested $7.2 million in Boulder-based residential energy management player Tendril. For smaller commercial customers, Ecova has been partnering with Powerhouse Dynamics. Retroficiency will also beef up its offerings to tackle the small and medium-size business sector.

These strategic investments and acquisitions will allow Ecova to compete on stronger footing to implement utility efficiency programs. Having a sophisticated analytics platform is essential, whether the customer is a large corporation or a utility, said Schmidt.

“Whoever I’m competing with today is not even who I’ll be competing with in a year or two. This is all about the data,” she added, saying that any big analytics company, such as Google, has to be seen as competition, along with traditional energy players. “The player who can take data and turn it into action -- that is who is going to succeed.”