ENGIE Insight CEO Takes To The Streets On A Cleantech Tour Of The U.S. (#CleanTechnica Exclusive)

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ENGIE Insight is the consulting arm of parent company ENGIE that works with corporate customers around the world to leverage the expansive network of experts at ENGIE’s disposal to solve its clients’ most challenging problems.

Looking to integrate 100 electric vehicle fast chargers on your property but not sure if you need to add storage to make the financials work? Interested in adding hydrogen storage + fuel cells to your business but need to make sure you sign on with a reputable company that can deliver savings over the long haul? These challenges and many more seem right up ENGIE Insight’s alley.

ENGIE Insight CEO Mathias Lelievre recently hit the road in the United States for a 2 week romp across the country, with stops along the way to visit customers, clients, and friends in 10 major metro areas spread out from coast to coast. We connected with him in Los Angeles, California, for a chat on the phone to talk about why he’s traveling more than 9,000 miles in 2 weeks and to see what he has learned along the way.

ENGIE Insight works with some of the largest companies in the world to solve critical energy and sustainability problems that require cutting edge solutions — some of which may not even exist today. Mathias shared how the program’s focus drove them to hit the road across the US: “We have seen in the last year a lot of stories, investments for companies that are leading the charge on the sustainability, so we wanted to elevate the discussion around the state of sustainability in the U.S. and show sustainability in action through those businesses.”

Sustainability is interesting to talk about, but it is one thing to talk about adding energy storage to a building and a completely different thing to see a dozen hydrogen fuel cells plumbed up to the side of a Home Depot in Los Angeles, California. The hydrogen storage and fuel cell system turned the facility’s $10,000/month energy bills into a credit of $10,000/month, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars per year.

“It’s less and less a political question and more and more, kind of a business question.”

Mathias was clearly excited by what he had seen on the tour and spoke about the sharp uptick in interest in cleantech solutions from companies. He noted that, “It’s less and less a political question and more and more of a business question.” It’s not about greenwashing anymore but that, “businesses are really making the choice to invest today.”

The changes sweeping the country are being driven by 3 macro trends:

1. Innovation — It makes financial sense to invest in those projects. It is not just greenwashing anymore, but it is really a more rational decision.

2. Data and insights — Mathias shared that, as one of ENGIE Insight’s core competencies, he naturally sees the opportunity to collect data for clients to understand where sustainability solutions make the most sense and where to dig for business opportunities.

3. Pressure from stakeholders — Along the tour, the topic of accountability to the local community repeatedly came up, reinforcing the importance of sustainable operations to the community. He also noted an increasing awareness from investors and shareholders of the opportunity and responsibility to achieve sustainability in all aspects of operations.

“We live in a moment where things are really changing from that perspective and it’s pretty new that we are in this point of convergence of the innovation that makes it possible and the data that makes it possible gives the business the push to make it more sustainable,” Mathias shared. It’s clear that businesses are increasingly looking at sustainable operations and renewable technologies as more than just promotional fluff, but increasingly as opportunities to save money while doing the right thing for the planet.

On the renewables front, “There is an interest from these large C&I (Commercial & Industrial) companies to understand how they can be plugged into renewables. Solar is a big part of that but also wind.” These solutions are being sought out specifically, while storage has not achieved the same level of notoriety.

Many companies took their first baby steps into renewables and other cleantech solutions years ago as a pilot or in an attempt to green up the company image, but things are changing now that the technologies have had time to prove themselves.

“We have met with more than 130 businesses in 10 days and I can see a convergence between different sectors, and all these companies are at the same moment where they make a first investment on some project retrofit lighting to more efficient light, an HVAC regulation system, some rooftop solar, some IoT to monitor the reality of the consumption of some equipment, the first electric vehicle chargers. Then the question is, ‘How do I go from that first phase where I try different investments, different projects — I know it works — to where to the point where they are asking how to scale up these solutions to all of their different facilities?'”

This has many companies chomping at the bit as they look to scale the learnings and savings from early pilots to their other operations and facilities around the world. Mathias shared that he’s hearing a lot of companies asking, “Where should I start, with what technology, to achieve which goal.”

“Change is super exciting because we have a chance to save ourselves from ourselves.”

Matthias talked about how this is not just a West Coast trend or a blue state versus red state debate, but it has rounded the corner in just the last few years to the point where the technology has the potential to not only save companies money, but to help us avoid the worst effects of climate change. “It’s less and less anecdotal investments and more of sustainability being grounded in the business and less of kind of a nice-to-have, which was the trend like 10 years ago or maybe even 5 years ago. That change is super exciting because we have a chance to save ourselves from ourselves.”

At the global scale, Mathias sees an opportunity for parent company ENGIE and ENGIE Insight to catalyze, capitalize on and support the transition to renewables for companies around the world. To him, it all starts with data: “We need to double down on data. Developing the way we communicate this and extend this to clients,” is key. Data is the new language of business and will help ENGIE to provide meaningful insights into the companies it works with.

ENGIE Insight’s bread and butter is distilling complex topics down to their essence for clients. Providing the right data to customers gives them the tools needed to make the complex, game-changing decisions that will enable them to be successful in the future and to capitalize on the energy transition for their business.

Finally, coming out of the 10 day road trip, Mathias has a renewed focus on waste. Reducing the waste generated by a facility, a business, or a product makes the product more sustainable and typically translates to a lower cost to produce.

Ultimately, the focus for each client is different, but Mathias has added a lot of new tools and a lot of new perspective to his toolbox as he heads back to the mothership to continue to refine his approach as the man in charge of ENGIE Insight. The resounding message coming from clients he visited on the trip is, “I’ve made initial investments and now the question is: How do I scale?” Mathias believes ENGIE Insight is uniquely positioned to help them get there.

ENGIE Insight is a company that is laser focused on sustainability — both for itself and for its clients. The first question I had when I heard about an entourage taking a 9,000 mile tour around the United States was, “How is that sustainable?” And the answer is that it clearly isn’t. Travel, especially travel by air, is one of the most carbon intensive activities we humans can embark on.

Thankfully, the team at ENGIE Insight is well aware of their impact and put in a significant amount of effort to minimize the impact of their travel. All driving trips were taken in electric vehicles. Given the long distances travelled, most of these trips were made in Teslas. It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step forward. When I spoke with him, the team was in Los Angeles, California, preparing to drive up to San Francisco in a Tesla Model X.

In addition, ENGIE Insight offsets all company travel with carbon credits. This is another system that isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. Travel to see problems, solutions, and customers in person is extremely valuable and can mean the difference between solving a problem or making it worse. It can mean the difference between a new solar farm or no solar farm. To travel or not is not the question. The real question in all of this is how do we reduce the impact of our lives on the planet while constantly pushing to do better. By all estimations, ENGIE Insight is at the forefront of that charge, and this, my friends, is only the beginning.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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