Enlighted: using data to boost energy efficiency

“Lighting up buildings with data” is how Joe Costello summed up Enlighted’s expertise and ambition in a tweet on 24 February. Captained by this versatile entrepreneur and pioneer of the Internet of Things, there was no way the California-based company was going to settle for developing simple lighting control systems. (That said, the start-up has already enabled Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Google, LinkedIn and Hewlett Packard to make huge savings on their buildings’ energy bills using the innovative software platform it launched in 2010.)
“In 2001, when I was working on the Internet of Things, it was too early and everyone abandoned it. I see the market now and the opportunity is phenomenal. It’s going to be enormous, it’s going to be surprising, and Enlighted is a perfect example of just that,” Costello said in a recent interview with Cleantech.com.“Enlighted built a platform that brings commercial real estate into the Internet of Things, developing an advanced wireless sensor network across every square foot of a building. With one sensor at every single light fixture, our solutions improve lighting for building occupants while saving energy costs between 60-70% [by adjusting lighting in real time according to changes in building occupancy, conditions of use, and so on]. The amount of energy and dollars that we save justifies the installation of that sensor network.”Data doesn’t come cheapIn fact, the market seems gigantic: it is estimated that the building automation market (which includes lighting control) will be worth 55 billion dollars by 2020– almost double its current value. But it is facing a sizeable challenge: funding. “The absolute number one problem is that building owners don’t have the capital to invest in efficiency upgrades,“ Costello explains.There is no outlay for the customer, no lease to sign and no loan to secure from creditors.Enlighted’s solution to this problem is called Global Energy Optimization program (GEO) and it is designed to win over hitherto reluctant customers. It is based on a daring business model borrowed from the high-tech industry: selling equipment like a service. The idea is extremely simple. Enlighted installs a network of sensors and provides both the funding and maintenance. At the end of the contract (usually in between 4 and 10 years’ time), the company is paid back at a pre-set rate using the money saved on electricity bills. There is no outlay for the customer, no lease to sign and no loan to secure from creditors.Total control of the buildingBased on the initial assessment, the solution seems both attractive and profitable. The GEO program has been introduced at more than 228 sites in 30 American States, covering a total of around 1.8 million square metres of installations. “At this point, at least half our revenues come from the GEO – and next year, if we do 10 percent of non-GEO, I’ll be surprised,” Costello said at a conference in San Francisco in October 2014.The company is now focusing on new control systems for ventilation, heating and air-conditioning, which would use networks of sensors that have already been installed. “We are trying to alter the whole building experience with greater visibility and control into all aspects of our building. This could include a facilities management tool that gives you real-time data on how your building is used,” says Costello. Enlighted has also decided to boost its development in Europe and in late 2013 it secured backing from Electranova Capital, an investment fund in which EDF is a partner.To go further25 petabytes: how EDF is approaching big data
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