When the city of Washington, D.C. wanted interval data for its municipal building stock to launch a new energy efficiency program, it spent more than six months wrangling with the local utility to get the data, even though digital smart meters had been deployed.
The frustration is not unique to the nation’s capitol, which has worked to the favor of Urjanet, an Atlanta-based startup that focuses on data-as-a-service for the countless building energy analytics companies. Even with initiatives like the Green Button, the truth is that gathering utility data, especially across large portfolios, is still an arduous and frustrating process in many regions.
That pain point translates into a growing business for Urjanet, which has nearly doubled its customer base in the past year and is connected to more than 800 utilities, according to the company’s CEO, Sanjoy Malik.
The first product was utilityConnect, which pulled a company’s utility data for energy-efficiency services. Urjanet does not provide the analytics, just the data to the companies or their analytics partners. Urjanet works with fellow startups and some of the largest names in the building management sector.
“We want to be the energy data service for the world,” said Malik.
A year ago, Malik told Greentech Media the company expected to double the number of the utilities it had connected to, which stood at 600 at the time. But that hasn’t been necessary, he said in a recent interview, because the company only adds utility data as customers need it. With many of the largest utilities already on board, there are few to add.
Malik added that the variability and idiosyncrasies in how utilities keep and share data have not changed much in the past year, but Urjanet’s reputation and client base have grown, making it slightly easier to get the data.
The core offering is still data around utility billing information, but interval metering data is now a separate offering known as meterConnect. Eventually, meterConnect could become the core offering when and if smart meters become ubiquitous.
The next step is to add more intelligence into the data stream for building energy management platforms. One new data stream has to do with weather, which pulls hourly information from 4,000 North American weather stations. The other data stream is an alert function, which can provide basic alerts mostly around billing issues, such as late payments, changes in tariff rates and peak consumption alerts.
Many of Urjanet’s customers white-label the product and integrate it into their own applications, which are then sold to commercial and industrial customers that want to better understand or cut energy use. Urjanet estimates there are about 450 energy management companies that could use its offering. It’s not just pure-play energy-efficiency companies; Urjanet is also working with companies like Genability, which helps to reduce the soft costs of solar installations.
Another new product revolves around the EPA’s Energy Star. “The Energy Star [team] wanted a solution to get the data easily,” said Malik. With increasing numbers of cities mandating energy benchmarking using Energy Star, there is a growing need for solutions for compliance. Urjanet says it can take meter and utility account info and plug the data directly into Energy Star’s portfolio manager.
Other data streams will continue to join the flow as the market shifts. Malik said carbon data is coming next, and some customers are already asking for Urjanet to service international markets.For more insight into how utilities are leveraging and sharing smart meter data, join Greentech Media's Soft Grid 2013 conference, which returns for its second year on October 1-2 in San Francisco.