EnerNOC makes strategic investment in WeSpire to target energy savings at companies

David Harris, Tech Editor – Boston Business Journal
June 25, 2014

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EnerNOC (Nasdaq: ENOC), a Boston-based provider of energy intelligence software, announced Tuesday that it made a strategic investment in Boston-basedWeSpire, a Boston software startup that focuses on keeping a company’s employees engaged in sustainability.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the terms of the agreement, EnerNOC has exclusive rights to market a white-labeled version of WeSpire’s employee engagement application, customized for enterprise and utility customers. Through the agreement, WeSpire will be available to all EnerNOC customers.

By using WeSpire software, users can earn points for actions related to projects that span energy, water, waste, transportation, food, volunteerism, and corporate citizenship. Founded as Practically Green in 2010, WeSpire’s customers include eBay, McDonald’s, Unilever and MGM Resorts International.

“Changing behavior is one of the most effective ways that organizations can take control of energy use, but it also requires a systematic approach built on proven behavioral science,” said Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and CEO of WeSpire. “By pairing WeSpire’s interactive technology to motivate people with EnerNOC’s ability to pinpoint the largest opportunities for energy-related savings, organizations can not only get a high return on investment, but improve overall employee engagement metrics, and deliver against broader sustainability goals.”

As part of the deal, EnerNOC CEOTim Healy will join WeSpire’s board of directors.

Next Step Living Secures $25 Million in Series D Financing to Grow Residential Services for Energy Efficiency, Renewables

Next Step Living, Press Release
June 25, 2014

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Boston – Next Step Living, New England’s leading provider of home energy solutions, has received $25 million in Series D funding, the company announced today. Led by new investor Braemar Energy Ventures, the funding also includes several leading earlier-stage investors. Among them are VantagePoint Capital Partners and Black Coral Capital.

The funding caps a record growth period for Next Step Living which since 2008 has helped more than 85,000 households become more energy-efficient and adopt renewable energy.  Earlier this year, the company ranked first as the fastest-growing private company in Massachusetts and was named to the prestigious TiE50 “2014 Global Hot Technology Start-up Watch List.” Additionally, company founder and CEO Geoff Chapin this month was named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014TM in New England.

“Next Step Living is well-positioned as a leader in the clean-energy sector that is experiencing strong double-digit growth, notably in New England. We are particularly excited about the company’s ability to offer homeowners the most cost-effective, energy-saving investments, whether that is weatherization, window replacement, solar or even participating in community solar,” said Dennis Costello, managing partner, Braemar Energy Ventures. “We see Next Step Living as quickly rising to the next level as a dominant force in enabling green living and energy efficiency for homeowners well beyond New England.”

The funding will help Next Step Living continue its expansion into new markets. It operates today in Massachusetts and Connecticut with more than 800 employees.

“We appreciate the recognition and support from Braemar and the very meaningful, continued support from our early investors. This validates that our whole-home approach to helping homeowners save energy and reduce carbon emissions resonates with both homeowners and the investment community,” said Chapin. “We’ve always believed in our practivist model to marry our activist agenda for sustainability with a sustainable business model.”

Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, The Windquest Group and dozens of angel investors are among those that have helped fund Next Step Living.

About Next Step Living

One of the fastest-growing companies in the country, Next Step Living® is the leading provider of whole-home energy solutions. Headquartered in Boston’s Innovation District, Next Step Living makes it easy and affordable for people to live in homes with a low environmental impact. A one-stop service provider of informed advice, funding guidance and expert work, Next Step Living partners with more than 400 municipalities, civic organizations, leading corporations and utility companies to deliver energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for better living. Since 2008, Next Step Living has helped New England homeowners achieve more than $20 million in energy savings, which is expected to grow to more than $100 million in the next five years. Next Step Living makes our world better. Please visitNextStepLiving.com for more information.

About Braemar Energy Ventures

Braemar Energy Ventures is a venture capital fund making early- to mid-stage investments in the energy technology sector. The firm’s principals have invested in more than 60 companies in the sector and have more than 100 years of combined technical, operational and financial experience in energy and energy-related industries. Braemar partners with exceptional companies and management teams, in both alternative and traditional energy markets, that can contribute to a more profitable and efficient energy landscape through innovation and marketplace expertise. Additional information is available atBraemarEnergy.com or on Twitter at Twitter.com/BraemarEnergy or @BraemarEnergy.

The Urgency of Energy Storage: An Angel Investor’s Perspective

Gail Greenwald, CEVG
May 28, 2014

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This column is about cleantech, but let me start with a personal story. My mother died of emphysema in 2011. For the last several years of her life, she was tethered to an oxygen concentrator, an electrically powered machine that stripped nitrogen out of air and produced an oxygen-enriched flow for her to breathe. A tank of oxygen also stood in the corner of her kitchen. It filled the portable tank she used when she went out and served as backup in case of a power outage.

Without oxygen, my mother could only function for a few minutes, and she lived alone. We worried that if a power outage did occur, especially in the middle of the night, she wouldn’t have enough time to get to the kitchen and switch over. Our anxiety was compounded in early 2009, when a major ice storm hit the region, causing a power outage that lasted several days and widespread tree damage, rendering roads impassable. With no other recourse, she spent several days in the hospital. In the aftermath, we persuaded her to install a backup generator, a very costly investment.

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According to Climate Central, weather-related power outages have doubled in the past decade. These outages aren’t cheap; the annual cost to Americans ranges between $20 billion and $55 billion. As the number of extreme weather events continues to rise due to climate change, we can surely expect the number of outages to increase as well.

For most of us, power outages are inconvenient. For people like my mother, they are life threatening.

When I was invited to write about a major pain point in the world of cleantech, I was sorely tempted to rail against the poisonous political climate and dysfunctional government that has, so far, done little or nothing to address climate change. That is certainly the major pain point in my world as a Boston-area angel investor, but the topic receives plenty of attention from others more qualified than I.

Instead, I decided to focus on a topic of interest for me personally and for the cleantech investment community in which I participate. That topic is energy storage.

Our cleantech future will be paced to a large extent by critical needs for energy storage. At grid scale, the growth of wind and solar power generation introduces the problem of intermittency: Power is generated only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. That energy must be either used or stored. If it is not needed at that moment and storage capacity is not available, it is lost.

As renewables become a larger fraction of our energy mix, the need for energy storage capacity increases. According to the Department of Energy, the US now has about 25 Gigawatts of available grid storage, only about 2 percent  of our generating capacity. The vast majority of this is pumped hydro, but as a number of other technologies are being developed and deployed, costs are coming down. My cleantech investment group was fortunate to make an early investment in one of these technologies. In general, however, they are too large and require too much capital for angel investors.

Predictive analytics and intelligent control systems also offer the promise for better demand side management, an approach that has been called virtual storage. We are also fortunate to have interesting investments in this area, and we are following with interest the progress of a host of new companies in this arena.

At much smaller scale, though, there is much to do to develop economically viable residential energy storage systems to further optimize our use of renewables and provide backup power when needed. In America, we are starting to see the introduction of home energy-storage systems to complement the enormous growth in residential solar installations—but they are very expensive.

In developing countries, solar-powered microgrids with battery-based storage are providing light and power in poor villages that previously had no—or very sporadic—access to electricity. The potential for microgrids to help these countries “leapfrog into a new energy paradigm” without grid-scale infrastructure is analogous to the cell phone phenomenon; it is a fascinating area of development.

I expect to be among the early adopters of residential energy-storage systems and will appreciate the security of having a backup power system, not to mention feeling good about using even more of the energy generated from the solar panels already on my roof. Yet, early adopters alone seldom add up to a viable business proposition or an attractive investment. So along with my colleagues in the cleantech investment community, I will be on the lookout for economically viable and reliable systems that offer the promise of wide-scale adoption.

The magnitude of the opportunity is clear. In developing countries, small-scale energy storage can be the key to dramatic improvements in quality of life. And here at home, affordable backup in a world of increasingly severe weather can also mean the difference between life and death.

Gail Greenwald is an active angel investor in the Boston area and a member of the Clean Energy Venture Group (CEVG) and the Launchpad Venture Group. In its eight-year history, CEVG has participated in over 80 rounds of investment across a portfolio of 20 companies and continues to actively evaluate a wide range of additional early stage investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability.