How EnergyGridIQ Helps You Find Available Energy Project Funding

Posted on December 8th, 2011 by

Reena Russell, one of the founders of EnergyGridIQ, talks about the importance of knowing what funding options are available for energy projects.

Full Transcript:

Ben lack: Talk to us a little bit about the company and what is the big problem that you are seeking to solve.
Reena Russell: Well, to put it simply, EIQ is trying to provide users with all funding  information available for energy projects. So, one piece of that of course is the public incentives, which most people are aware of. These  incentives come from federal and state agencies and non-profits. You could say in a nutshell that was one of the reasons why my business partner and I were interested in founding the company. We used to work in the energy space, and we knew how hard it was for our clients to get information about the incentives that are available because there are something like 3,000 different agencies that offer them.Currently, there isn’t a good solution out there where you can get up-to-date and reliable information. So, that’s one building block of our company. We offer information on the public incentives that are available. On top of that, we try to pull in other sources of funding which might be offered by a private company. So for example, there might be an equipment manufacturer that’s interested in offering a targeted rebate for certain customers in a certain location. They’d be able to come on to our site and enter a promotion like that. So then in addition to the public incentives and funding sources, you have private funding sources as well. That means that there’s a larger funding stack available at your  fingertips  to take into account and try to decide which energy project makes the most sense from a cost perspective. When calculating project ROI our users have this larger stack of funding under consideration which theoretically makes more energy projects possible.  Does that make sense?
Ben Lack: Yes.
Reena Russell: Fantastic. So, just to tell you a little bit more about the company, we focus on the principles of social, mobile and local. What we’re trying to do is offer information in a very local format, so all of our information is geocoded and map based. We have a mobile app called Watt Rebate which offers all of this information in a mobile format. We’re also trying to create a social interaction around the energy projects and what I mean by that is that you get this interaction between providers looking to fund certain types of energy project and also the developers of such projects. And so you start to get interaction and conversation around each of the projects and that will hopefully lead to better outcomes for everybody.
Ben Lack: Can you give an example of a common scenario of a project?
Reena Russell: Let’s say that a commercial building is looking to upgrade its HVAC. They could post that project on our site and then providers of HVAC equipment will be able to search by zip code for projects that people are interested in doing and they will be able to reach out to that building  and offer a special incentive of some sort. In addition, that commercial building will be able to see all of the public incentives that are available in that region for that type of technology.
Ben Lack: So what locations have you found have the most incentives when you start combining the federal incentives as well as any other types of private incentives that organizations might be interested in offering?
Reena Russell: You typically see the most activity in the incentive space in any area that has an issue with electricity. So, of course California has a whole bunch. In  the tri-state area you see quite a lot of incentives come up. Texas is quite an active market. Generally, you’re not going to see as many incentives if there isn’t a large focus on energy in that state and people don’t have a lot of trouble with the cost of energy.
Ben Lack: Do you have any types of metrics or any types of an idea of what types of the acceptance rate of getting customers on board to take advantages of incentives and money that’s out there?
Reena Russell: Well, we’re a relatively new company so we’re not talking about a large amount of time that has gone by, so I wouldn’t want to speak too much about which areas show the most promise or will be most attractive to fund. We hope that our platform is going to be relevant for people across the country. We’ve actually seen people using our system across different states. I wouldn’t want to say that there’s a huge targeted use in one place at this point in time.
Ben Lack: Based on the database that you have put together, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing and since you are a subject matter expert in this space, are there certain states that maybe could have larger incentives because energy prices are high but they’re a little light in trying to get people to implement projects?
Reena Russell: I wouldn’t say that I personally look at that level of detailed information on the incentives. We’re interested in providing all incentives to everybody, so I personally don’t spend much time assessing what types of incentives there are available and in what place because our system is searchable anywhere. If you’re interested in any type of technology, you can search for that anywhere, eventually we will be provide a dashboard for detailed analytics to assist policy makers and agencies to apply funding more surgically.Currently, we are focused on getting all the incentive information in. We’re also interested in incenting different agencies and institutions to put their own information on our site because, of course, if you get people to update their own incentives, that’s going to be the best solution for any customer anywhere. We hope what will happen over time is that we’re able to drive up that interaction of all of the parties who are involved. So, that will be the agencies offering the incentives, the users who are looking for them and that would also be providers of energy services who are looking to use those incentives as selling points for their projects. For example, an engineering firm is interested in what incentives are available because they can use that as information to give to their customers when they’re trying to sell a project. So what we’re trying to do is get all of these different parties to interact in one place so that it is more efficient for everyone.
Ben Lack: When somebody goes to the site of a company interested in performing a potential project and they go to this site to research the incentives and things that are available in their zip code or geocode, does the site just provide information or does it take them further than providing information?
Reena Russell: At this point in time, we provide the information on the incentives. What we’re hoping to do at some point in the future is of course set something up so that people can interact with the agencies, potentially actually submit for the incentive directly through our site but that’s sometime away. That’s not what we have today. Today it is only informational.
Ben Lack: And the sign up process for the search process for incentives, do you have to create an account on the site or is it open to anyone?
Reena Russell: You have to create an account but it’s free and anybody can download our mobile app. It’s currently on the iPhone. It’s called Watt Rebate.
Ben Lack: Talk to us a little bit about mobile because the energy sector really has taken a little while for them to get their arms around the mobile aspects and I know you mentioned briefly earlier that you have this solution for mobile. Now, what was the reasoning for pushing it to mobile and where do you see that offering? How do you see that offering grow?
Reena Russell: We think that the mobile component is absolutely critical. When you think about an engineer who goes on site much of the time, it’s really helpful be able to pull out a phone or iPad and just do a quick search of what incentives are available. Let’s say that an engineer happens to be on site and they didn’t have time previously to do a full analysis of incentives, they can just use Watt Rebate, our app, to quickly see what incentives are available and get a brief description of each one.
Ben Lack: What would you say so far has been the biggest challenge with growing your business and then conversely, what has been the biggest surprise or opportunity that you haven’t expected?
Reena Russell: Well, I would definitely say one of the challenges is getting up-to-date and reliable incentive information. That’s a challenge for everyone out there and the solutions that exist outside of EIQ we’ve heard from our customers are simply not 100%. We’ve put a huge amount of effort into building up a database and we’ve used both systems and people to keep the data updated and really relevant for our customers. That’s been definitely a large challenge and that was something that took up quite a lot of time when we first got up and running, so I would say that’s definitely a challenge and I think that just speaks to how much of a need there is for this information. When we talk to our customers about the data that’s out there, you know there are sites like DSIRE that are offering incentive data and we’ve had many people contact us and say there’s information out there but they don’t feel that any one place is reliable. They feel like they have to go to many different sites to get the information from each of the agencies and so forth, to make sure that it’s up to date and accurate and what we’re aiming to do is take that need away so that people can just come to our site instead of going to lots of different places and find all the information that they need on incentives. To at least be able to determine what incentives are going to be interesting to them. What we’re trying to do is provide a snapshot of each incentive. We call it an incentive flash card and we use icons on our mobile app to quickly convey to people what technology each incentive is relevant for and what type of incentive it is, whether it is a grant or tax break or any other type of incentive that’s available. What we’re trying to do is parse incentive information and make it easily digestible for our customers. Right now, when you go to many of the sites that provide information on incentives, you’ll have a very long description and it’s very hard to quickly understand is this an incentive that is useful in the current situation. What we want to do is give that very quick snapshot and people can say, “Ok, I’ve identified 3 or 4 different incentives that look like they’re going to be really relevant for this project.” At that point in time, they can go and they can get a lot more extensive information on each one of those incentives. We’re trying to provide that really high level information that enables people to make quick decisions for their projects.
Ben Lack: What’s the surprise have you found as you grown the business?
Reena Russell: One surprise is that there really are not other mobile apps out there that are extremely useful for energy efficiency projects. We of course did an analysis of what’s already out there and I was surprised to find that there aren’t already a huge number of apps that target every aspect of energy efficiency. And that would speak to what you were talking about, that the energy industry in general has been a little bit slow to pick up on mobile as a platform that can really help.
Ben Lack: As the year winds down, talk to us briefly about what we can expect from you EIQ in 2012?
Reena Russell: We have so many exciting things happening. We’re about to launch a new version of our website, so we’re hoping that we’ll be out there in the next 2-3 weeks. We’re working on another app that’s going to be available which is project-based instead of incentive-based. That’s going to be really exciting because we want to bring those two things together at a point in time. We want to encompass the funding side of things and we also want to encompass the project side of things. So, if you’re a provider, you want to be able to see what projects people are thinking about and what projects are they in the process of doing and you will be able to reach out to those people if you think that your services will be beneficial. So, now we’ve got the app out there for the funding side of things and we’re currently working on one that’s going to be centered around projects.
Ben Lack: Talk to me a little bit why you’re doing what you’re doing and why this industry interests you?
Reena Russell: Like I briefly mentioned before, my business partner and I worked in the energy space together many years ago and we were working at a demand response  firm and we saw a lot of our customers trying to get information about all the incentives that are out there. That was few years ago. At that point in time, it was even harder than today to get this information and it was such an obvious need in the marketplace and when we looked at that and combined it with the trend of mobile and also geocoded information, we saw a real opportunity to pull all those things together. We are really excited about the mobile application. That’s one of the key pieces of our business.

Related Posts:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.