The California energy management startup Bidgely has raised $16.6 million in a series B round of funding to help expand its product suite. Constellation Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of Exelon Corporation, E.ON (EOAN:GR) RWE (RWE:GR), and Khosla Ventures are some of the investors. The company also wants to grow its European presence. Abhay Gupta, co-founder and CEO generously answered some questions about the startup’s energy service.
1. What are the main benefits of using the HomeBeat platform?
The HomeBeat platform analyzes energy usage data from smart meters or an energy monitor at a single point of the entry in the home and itemizes the usage into individual appliances like refrigerators, air-conditioning, electric cooking, dryers etc. The electricity bill is a bit of an outlier compared to those from services such as credit cards or bank statements in that virtually no detail is provided about where the money was spent. Our ability to create itemized appliance usage information using software without investing in new hardware, like sensors, is a boon to both consumers and utilities.
Benefits for Consumers:
HomeBeat Web and Mobile helps consumers learn which appliances consume energy and how much they are spending. This helps them make informed decisions on what actions to take for a given benefit. For example, the HomeBeat mobile app can tell a consumer that her heating this month has increased 60%, the cost impact of the change is going to be $380 for the year, and that if she lowers the heater set point by 2 degrees, she will be able to lower her energy bills without sacrificing comfort. Alternatively, for a different customer with similar increase in heating cost, HomeBeat tells him that heater use has gone up by 4 hours a day and hence better control of their thermostat program can deliver the desired savings.
The HomeBeat app goes beyond energy savings and serves more connected home use cases. The app can detect that someone just came home by identifying changes in electrical activity in the house.
Benefits for Utilities:
Not only do utilities use HomeBeat for consumer engagement, they use HomeBeat Marketer and HomeBeat Agent products to increase business efficiencies.
HomeBeat Marketer identifies homes by energy use and relative efficiency, even at the appliance level. So a program promoting peak load shift could be targeted solely at customers using their AC in the middle of the day on the weekdays, which overlaps with the periods when the utility wants to cut the peak load. Without this targeting, the program (which may cost as much as $300 per home) is targeted towards all homes, hence creating both a larger marketing cost and program inefficiencies due to a number of free-riders (who get enrolled in program but were not using the AC during peak hours).
HomeBeat Agent allows utilities to answer high bill complaint calls effectively and efficiently by answering the question as to why the bill went up last month. The customer support agents are guided through the possible causes of higher bills based on disaggregation data and are able to identify the cause of the higher bill, thereby converting an unhappy customer to a happy, loyal customer. This not only increases customer satisfaction ratings, it helps reduce their call center costs for all calls related to high bill complaints.
2. What is the cost?
There is no cost to consumers as utilities make this service available free of charge. Utilities pay a SaaS subscription fee per home per year for the service. We also offer HomeBeat using an emerging business model, pay-for-performance. With pay-for-performance, utilities pay a per kWh savings for energy efficiency or per kW peak shift for demand response programs. This model reduces the risk for utilities, and shows just how much confidence we have in our solution.
3. How long does it take to set up?
For the consumer, there is no setup because it all happens in the cloud. In fact, another distinguishing factor that really makes a difference for customers is that there are no surveys. HomeBeat automatically identifies appliances in the home, and if there is any doubt, sends a confirmation notice. So it’s sort of a magical experience for consumers. For utilities, setting up the program can be as fast as a couple of weeks if they utilize well structured data such as Green Button. There is no hardware component or in-home installation requirement as everything is handled on the backend so setup pretty low impact on the utility, and has virtually no impact on the consumer.
4. How many customers are there?
In 2015, we’re up to about 3 million meters under contract which are under deployment process and will be live in the coming months. We’ve announced relationships with utilities like London Hydro, TXU Energy, ComEd, and many in Hawaii through Energy Exelerator. We additionally have relationships that we hope to announce soon in Europe, Asia and Australia.
5. Is the customer base all residential or are there businesses using it too?
We provide a residential solution at this time, but we may expand to serving small and medium business owners in future. I should also point out that we provide our service only through utilities, and we do not have a direct-to-consumer offering currently.
6. What do customers like about the platform the most?
Our testing shows that consumers like the appliance level information and bill projection the most. Again, it’s personal and driven by events unique to their home, making it much more relevant than most solutions. Users also like the glanceability of the mobile app. The role of web portals as a primary form of engagement is diminishing, so consumers appreciate having a mobile app that provides value at their fingertips.
7. Is the full functionality and analytics available on the mobile service too?
The mobile app is the centerpiece of our offering, as users need to be reached when and where the information is most impactful. In fact, there are features that are available on mobile but not available on the web platform.
8. Does the platform work with solar, wind, and energy storage products?
Solar is a big focus for us. We can disaggregate solar generation to provide a net meter capability directly in the app, showing solar generation and energy consumption all together. This helps users stay within one app environment for top-level insights.
9. What are the company’s plans for the next 3-5 years?
With the successful and oversubscribed Series B funding we have just announced, we’ll be focusing on expanding our capabilities to serve a significant customer pipeline that we have built last year. The other focus is on expanding globally and creating more consumer and utility value with enhanced analytics.
Image Credit: Bidgely