Networked lighting startup Enlighted says that its intelligent, wireless control nodes can reduce a building’s lighting energy bill by 50 percent or more, providing a quick return on the cost of retrofitting a building with LEDs or other energy-efficient lights.
Now it’s launching a program to deliver those savings without any upfront cost for its customers, much like SolarCity has done for rooftop solar or Stem is doing for behind-the-meter batteries.
On Thursday, Enlighted announced its Global Energy Optimization (GEO) program -- a financing package that gives customers a guaranteed monthly savings on their electric bills, with Enlighted and its lenders earning back their investment on the savings that are left over.
That makes installing networked lighting controls a no-brainer, according to Joe Costello, Enlighted’s new CEO. In fact, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup has already implemented its GEO offering at approximately 228 customer sites covering about 19.4 million square feet of building space. That’s nearly half of the San Francisco-based startup’s total portfolio of about 45 million square feet.
“At this point, at least half our revenues come from the GEO -- and next year, if we do 10 percent of non-GEO, I’ll be surprised,” Costello said in a Thursday interview at the Verge conference in San Francisco. That’s because GEO can help remove the key barrier for building owners and operators looking at efficiency investments: the availability of capital.
Enlighted has lined up about a dozen financial backers for its GEO program, Costello said, though he declined to name them. “What we do is we borrow against the stream of future energy saved,” he said. “It sounds totally flaky -- that’s an asset you can borrow against? But it turns out, you can.”
Indeed, lighting retrofits are one of the least complicated efficiency offerings out there when it comes to calculating return on investment, he said. Unlike heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) retrofits, which are dependent on a number of variables like weather and proper operation of the system, “The energy use for lighting is a constant” in most commercial buildings that Enlighted targets, he said. “Our installation is totally programmatic -- so the savings are 100% programmatic.”
That’s made lighting replacements a favorite target of utility efficiency programs. But adding networked controls can add significant savings on top of the efficiency gained from new lights, according to Enlighted and a host of other networked lighting players like Daintree Networks and Digital Lumens.
Networked controls are even more useful with LEDs, since these digitally controlled lights can offer a lot more functionality than traditional incandescent or fluorescent lights. Beyond controlling lights, Enlighted’s nodes could serve as the hubs for all manner of intelligent building controls, including occupancy sensors and thermostats, he said -- something it’s seeking to bring to customers including Singapore’s economic development agency.
Enlighted raised a $20 million Series D round in August, bringing its total investment to $55 million. Other startups in the field include Digital Lumens, an LED network and controls provider that’s raised $48 million in venture capital, and Daintree Networks, which is working with partners like LG and Philips.
Enlighted will also face competition from big lighting vendors like Cree and Philips, both of which are promoting their own proprietary wireless mesh-embedded LED control platforms. In the meantime, other networked lighting startups that have since been acquired by bigger players, such as Redwood Systems (bought by CommScope) and Adura (bought by Acuity), could be eyeing similar financing deals to help remove the capital barriers to market growth.