Conservation Services Group Secures $100M In Energy Saving Contracts

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by

Stephen Cowell, CEO of the Conservation Services Group, talks about the newly signed contracts that his company recently signed with numerous organizations.

Full Transcript:

Ben lack: Your company recently announced that you’ve agreed to more than a $100M worth of new and renewed contracts with clients. I’d like to get your thoughts on what these types of contracts look like and why this is such a significant feat for your company?
Stephen Cowell: The specialty we have is in managing program initiatives sponsored by government or utilities to help residential consumers improve the energy efficiency of their home. That’s our core business and these contracts range in size, scope and location. Many different states from Kentucky to Pennsylvania, to California are represented, so it is very geographically diverse. The kinds of things we are going to be doing are similar to the things that are our core competency is working with contractors providing technical oversight, marketing, quality control, data management, financial management for this program and ultimately responsibility for ensuring that the work gets done right, the customers get served, the funds are utilized properly and saving people’s energy bills go down. That’s the end of the day our mission and what we try to do. Why is it so important for us? It’s critical in terms of our business because many of these are multi-year contracts. A lot of these programs that are sponsored go out to bid every couple of years and they’re big chunks. Getting a multi-year contract either renewed or put in place is important to the stability of our company and be able to invest on a longer time horizon than year-to-year business fluctuation.
Ben Lack: One of the new programs your company is working on is the Energy Upgrade California Program for the state. Could you provide us a little bit of detail of what that relationship looks like?
Stephen Cowell: In the case of that particular program, our primary deliverable is training contractors, both in terms of HERS audits and technical assessment skills and quality standards that measures materials. Our role in that particular program is focused on training particularly contractor and technician training.
Ben Lack: And your program that you have partly been working on with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Green Jobs – Green New York Program is trying to increase the number of jobs for weatherization. Share a little a bit of color how that relationship is expanding.
Stephen Cowell: What we really had in New York, we’ve been working with NYSERDA for now a decade, really building the whole concept of whole house performance, weatherization, adding both equipment and shell. That program has been evolving in the last two years. There’s been a very significant legislative boost to that program. In 2009, the state of New York passed Green Jobs – Green New York legislation. This year, they passed legislation requiring an on-bill financing option for consumers working with utility companies. What happened is the base work that we’ve been doing building the industry of home performance contractors in New York, really has gotten a shot in the arm from legislation in expanding it. The allocation of stimulus money, I think it was about $40 million, was allocated to support this program and then the on-bill financing legislation really will give us an additional avenue to help get financing into the hands of consumers who want to do this work but don’t have the upfront cash to do the investment. One of the interesting observations that I have made, in New York, in the last two years, these two pieces of legislation have been by far the most bi-partisan legislative agreements that have been passed in the state of New York which has been very heavily divided 50-50 Republicans and Democrats. Both of these legislations passed with both republican and democratic strong support.
Ben Lack: In addition to energy savings, are there other quantifiable metrics that these clients of yours hold your feet to at the end of the day so that you end up getting the next round of contracts from these and other potential customers?
Stephen Cowell: Absolutely. Energy savings is number one. If we don’t produce the energy savings, they don’t get their metrics reached but at the same time, almost across the board, there are customer satisfaction requirements. There are metrics like, we answer 400,000 phone calls a year from consumers looking for information on energy efficiency. There are regional call centers around the country. We have a hundred staff members whose job it is to be real-live people answering people’s questions. We have metrics like how quickly we pick up the phone, how many people actually pick up the phone and get a live person, how many rings? We get down to that level of detail, customer satisfaction, the uptake rate if there’s energy audits involved, how many people go on to implement those measures. We have very detailed metrics and standards that we have to do that lead up to how much energy we save. There’s a pre-cursor but almost every contract has a fairly detailed set of performance metric that we have to deliver on.
Ben Lack: Steve, why are you in this business and why have you chosen to do what you’re doing?
Stephen Cowell: I’m mission driven. I call myself a public purpose entrepreneur and I recently have told people my exit strategy is when I feel I’ve left a sustainable planet. I love doing this from a point of view of I think this is absolutely critical to the health of the country, the world. It’s what motivates me to come to work everyday. The feeling that doing this is helping the environment, helping the national security, helping the economics of millions of American families. That’s what drives me to do what I do.
Ben Lack: Before we let you go, is there anything else that you want to share with our audience?
Stephen Cowell: I think it’s the sense that the things we do really are driven by good economics. They are supported above politics and it really gets down to the nitty-gritty. We work with a lot of small contractors. President Obama asked me to help put together his proposed Home Star plan which I did and spent a fair amount of time in Washington helping with that. What was really fascinating about that was I was able to see the Chamber of Commerce, environmental groups and labor unions all agreeing that this was a good thing to do and they don’t agree very often. Being part of something like that is really very rewarding and I feel honored to be able to be part of that.

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