A hot trend in cleantech: startups targeting energy data and analytics

Startup Stem is one of a growing number of young cleantech startups that are using data, analytics and energy storage, like batteries, to manage companies’ energy consumption. It’s an area that can take advantage of the latest trends in information technology like big data, cloud computing and cheap batteries.

Founded in 2009 and formerly called Powergetics, Stem plans to announce its first customer installation on Nov. 15. and this week announced a new CEO, Salim Khan, the former COO of smart grid company Trilliant. Khan replaced founder Brian Thompson, who is now the company’s executive vice president; the new appointment came after Stem rebranded itself and presented its new business plan publicly in April this year.

Stem’s software uses data — from weather, from buildings’ energy consumption, from electricity rates — to show its customers their energy use patterns, and how much they’re paying across different buildings. The analytics then allow them to forecast their electricity use and control their energy budgets.

Stem also employs energy storage systems, like batteries, to send electricity to its customers at times when energy from the grid is more expensive, such as during hot summer days. Its customers could pair the energy storage service with a set of solar panels so that they could generate their own power and further reduce their reliance on their local utilities.

Crowded space

Stem is emerging at a time when there is already a rather large pool of startups that aim to make money by helping businesses monitor their energy use and cut their utility bills. The technologies and services of these startups aren’t exactly the same, of course, but the general concept is the same: develop software that analyzes electricity consumption and use the data to either recommend energy-saving strategies or automatically make adjustments to reduce electricity consumption, especially during hours of peak energy demand.

For example, Noesis, an Austin startup, uses free services to attract building owners and managers and then charges them for more sophisticated analyses and energy management tools. The company also charges companies in the building energy management field – from lighting and sensor sellers to energy audit software developers — that want to advertise their services to building managers that use Noesis’s services.

Some companies use competition to influence workplace behavior and nudge employees to save energy. Others use a wealth of historical data to predict a business’s energy use throughout the day and enable it to dial back electricity consumption and take advantage of incentives from utilities to reduce energy use during hours of peak demand.

Stem will have to work hard to set itself apart from the pack. The company says it has multiple customers but declined to disclose any. The company has raised a round of $14.2 million since its inception, and its investors include the Angeleno Group and Greener Capital.