Helping Customers to Lower Costs and Carbon Footprint Through Data and AnalyticsMonday, May 4th 2020
Last week, we interviewed Dynamo Energy Hub Member Deirdre Lord, Co-Founder of the innovative cleantech The Megawatt Hour. We asked Deirdre about her business and the value it provides to its customers, while also discussing what it takes for large energy consumers to change their behavior and lower their carbon footprint. Check out the conversation below to learn more!
Tell us about The Megawatt Hour: What do you do and what is your mission?
The Megawatt Hour provides commercial, industrial, and institutional customers with software that transforms energy usage data into energy analytics. This allows our clients to make better decisions, save money and time in managing their energy and, ultimately, hopefully, improve their energy efficiency. Essentially, we provide our customers with greater transparency on their energy usage and cost.
In all other deregulated markets like financial services, for example, you can easily gain insight and see how equities are trading and structure your portfolio so you can optimize for growth. In the energy market, customers are participating all the time but traditionally don’t readily have access to their own usage data, much less market information. This is the issue that The Megawatt Hour is addressing.
Before we co-founded the company, Robert Bright and I were thinking about what’s missing in the energy markets and in retail energy. We have 20 years of experience in this field, and we realized there’s no place where customers can effectively access their data, forecast their energy consumption, and get analytics about cost and usage. So, we see it as our mission to bring transparency to energy markets and large customers, such as universities, hospitals, multi-family housing, and K-12 schools, among others.
Could you tell us a little bit more about how you started the company and your background that informed this business idea?
Bob and I started working together in the late 90s. We both worked at a company now called Constellation NewEnergy. Bob was responsible for retail pricing. I was initially responsible for customer care. I started on the frontline of providing information to customers, such as explaining their electricity bills.
This is our third company together. We both have operations and markets backgrounds. I have more of a customer-facing experience and he is a complete wizard with data analytics and understanding markets and rates. When we started The Megawatt Hour, we decided that it was time to transform the black box that is retail markets and operations. This was our opportunity to bring the data and analytics directly to customers.
What was the most interesting/exciting project that you worked on in the past year?
We love the insights and revelations that data and analytics can bring to clients. Every time a customer has an “Aha” moment, it is very gratifying and rewarding. We got into a new market last year — Long Island, so we added PSEG Long Island. We added delivery cost analytics to our services. In the past we only provided information about energy supply, but now we also include delivery data. Supply is the least transparent, but after years of talking to customers we realized that delivery is also essential. It’s been very gratifying to complete this picture for customers.
We also added one of the largest private employers in New York State to our business last year. We’ve been able to provide them with data and analytics that they haven’t had access to prior, so this is very exciting for us.
This is exciting! Now I have a big picture question for you: What are some clean energy/sustainability trends that you are watching or excited about?
From a personal standpoint, I got into this business because I came out of college with a degree in environmental studies and took some courses on the impacts of climate change. Back then, I thought as soon as people get access to this information about climate change impacts on the environment, they’ll change their behavior. And that was 30 years ago.
People respond well to what happens to their costs. When US utilities deregulated, I thought it was a way to bring real transformation to our economy. I thought as soon as customers see the true cost of generating an electron, they’ll shift their preferences to renewables and energy efficiency. However, after decades of being in the industry, I realized that if customers cannot get a handle on their energy usage in order to have better visibility and access to the analytics of their costs, they can not make different decisions. The Megawatt Hour is trying to solve this problem, because if I can’t evaluate my costs, how can I change my decision-making process?
Looking ahead, I see how our clients have gone from thinking primarily about cost and usage to consider the cost of carbon and climate risks. The goal is always to maintain a very efficient operation but now we also have to take into account climate change risks. We see it very practically with the passage of the Local Law 97 — building owners in New York will have to pay penalties if they exceed set emissions limits. This is a policy that changes the dialogue around energy usage and climate.
Federal climate policy has not kept pace with what customers are now demanding. I am very optimistic about the role that customers can play in mitigating the climate change impacts on the environment, but they need all the tools to make those decisions.
Thank you, Deirdre, I love your optimism, and I completely agree — while the Federal government has lagged behind on climate policy, so many other stakeholders, from the private sector to state governments, have stepped up, and it is promising. Building on that, in a way, could you tell us why you joined Dynamo Energy Hub?
As entrepreneurs, we tend to operate heads-down. We tirelessly work to meet certain goals around our businesses, but I don’t think that such a siloed approach always serves us as business people.
Getting engaged with a community of clean energy professionals gives all of us more creative ideas. We can get a lot more done together as colleagues, rather than remaining in our own separate worlds. The Dynamo community engages a phenomenal group of clean energy professionals. Members build trusted relationships and learn from each other.
Thank you, we truly value having The Megawatt Hour as our member and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with you, Deirdre! To wrap up here, could you share a fun fact with us about you or about how you’ve been staying sane working from home during this weird time?
I’ve been baking a lot of bread — if anyone needs a sourdough starter, I’d be happy to share it! It keeps me disciplined and on schedule throughout the day, and you have to walk around to check on your bread regularly, so it’s a good reason to get away from my computer screen every once in a while!
Thank you, Deirdre! It’s always a delight to speak with you and I am looking forward to seeing you in-person at our Hub. You’ll need to bring some of your bread for us to try because you must have gotten really good at it by now!
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