Schneider Electric has added to its growing portfolio of building owners that use it to procure and manage their electricity. On Friday, the French power giant announced it was buying U.K.-based M&C Energy Group for an undisclosed sum from owner Lyceum Capital.
M&C expects to see about £35 million ($56.5 million) in annual revenues in the year ending in June for its energy procurement and sustainability services, which it provides to customers on a subscription basis. It’s a lot like a U.K. version of Summit Energy, the U.S.-based energy services provider with about $20 billion in energy contracts and 650 customers, which Schneider bought for $268 million last year.
Added up, it’s an important new business for the French building and grid power equipment giant. Schneider is integrating M&C into its Summit business, and the combined companies will serve about 4,000 customers, including both large corporations and pools of small to medium-sized businesses. M&C’s presence in Europe and Asia-Pacific also serves Schneider’s hunt for acquisitions that offer it entrée into new markets.
That may not be as big a share of the market as is held by energy companies like Constellation Energy, NRG Energy and the like. Still, it’s a sizable new customer base for Schneider’s power equipment retrofit and energy services, which it can combine with efficiency and demand response for additional revenues and faster payback. Schneider said it expects the M&C acquisition to pay itself back within three years.
Schneider’s $2 billion purchase of Telvent last year also opened up a world of smart grid systems integration potential. The company is working on “smart city” projects in the U.S., France. and China that link buildings and the grid, though it hasn’t given any specifics on them yet.
Schneider is one of four grid giants -- ABB, Siemens and General Electric are the others -- that have been spending billions to acquire their way into smart building and smart grid business over the past few years.
ABB bought Australian renewable power integration company Powercorp last year, and CEO Joe Hogan said last month that automation and controls were the Swiss grid giant’s next acquisition target. Siemens is testing out grid-building connectivity in New York City and other places.
Japanese giants such as Hitachi, Panasonic and Toshiba are also integrating smart grid and smart buildings, driven by that country’s post-Fukushima power crisis, and China has a dozen or so projects integrating buildings and the grid with plug-in vehicles, rooftop solar panels and the like.
Add the plethora of startups with technology to bring to the puzzle, and there’s a lot of new gear for customers to consider. Owning the companies that buy power for customers on a competitive basis could really help drive those technologies to market -- if they make economic sense.