Clean Tech's mission is anti-racist. But our lack of diversity across our own teams handicaps our efforts. Part 1 of 2 | go to part 2
Clean tech exists to fight climate change. But we’re going about it with one hand tied behind our backs. Let’s fix that.
We know climate change disproportionately impacts low wealth communities and communities of color. By its very nature, our mission is anti-racist. But our lack of diversity across our own teams handicaps our efforts. And the benefits of clean energy simply do not accrue equally to all individuals and communities.
In addition to the moral imperative to diversify, which is massive, diversity in clean tech is simply good business. This is a huge opportunity for our industry not only to ally ourselves with what is right, but to grow. We can stamp out racism and exclusion where we see it. Doing that will make our industry stronger. We should want this.
It’s not something to fight. It’s something to fight for, compelled by a sense of fairness and a vision of what our industry could be.
Things are Better Than They Used to Be
It can be depressing to look down the barrels of our double pandemic — COVID-19 and racial injustice — and wonder how clean tech can survive. And yet, our industry has made significant progress on other fronts. We now have many multiple billion dollar solar, EV and battery storage companies. Rooftop solar is growing dramatically — up 50% a year since 2012. Hardware technology costs and soft costs are plummeting. Permitting and interconnection barriers have dropped, making clean energy projects easier and faster to build.
But It’s Still Bad; This Work Can’t Wait
However, clean energy needs justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) more than ever. In the past few months, research from UC Berkeley and others has reminded us of the disparities in both the clean energy workforce, as well in solar energy deployment/business models.
Low-income, Black and Latinx communities pay up to three times more than the average household on home energy costs, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. This is what we call the Energy Burden. Despite showing higher levels of interest in fighting climate change, Black- and Latinx-majority census tracts have installed significantly less rooftop PV compared with no racial majority and white tracts. This is what we call a missed business opportunity.
So, while clean tech is making strides, we can help it along by fixing these systemic, institutional and individual JEDI issues. Imagine how much faster and to scale we could do it with both hands free to get to work.
Next week, Part 2: less talk, more action. Places to get started doing the work.
Everyone in the energy ecosystem needs easy access to secure data from a system that actually works.That's UtilityAPI.
This post was co-written with Shiva Patel, MBA Candidate @ Berkeley, Haas | Energy & Climate Justice Finance + Investments.
“You have solved our problem.”
That’s how Rice Lummis summed up the impact of UtilityAPI on his team’s work at Energy by 5, an energy advisory firm that operates in several different markets across North America.
Lummis and Anuniti Amireddy, an Energy Engineer, work together on demand-side analytics — looking at utility meter data, analyzing trends in tariff design — with an end goal of developing energy management strategies for their clients. It’s not always about saving money. “At the end of the day, our goal as a team is to help clients, primarily in states with competitive supply options in gas and electric. We can help people save money, increase sustainability and resiliency, or strengthen their budgeting plans. We model different scenarios for our clients so they can plan for what’s coming and prepare with confidence,” Lummis explained.
The two are no strangers to big data sets. Even so, data consistency was a common pain point. “I’m comfortable working with big data sets, but getting Excel-friendly consistent formats was always a problem.”
UtilityAPI’s fast, standardized data solutions made those problems simply disappear.
The 5 team is proud of their custom in-house energy management portal — called Level5 — which they lean on for a good deal of their work. But not all of it. In particular, the data format utilized by one utility in New Jersey was eating up a great deal of their work time.
“We have a large client base in New Jersey. But that’s just been one market where (for a variety of reasons) our internal development efforts have lagged our sales volume. UtilityAPI in that market has been really really helpful. A huge time saver. I can’t even calculate how many hours that has saved us,” Lummis added.
But there was one problem.
In order to do their risk management work, 5 needed one particular data point that our API wasn’t configured to return. Could we do a custom modification for them in order to capture this segment of the New Jersey market’s bills?
UtilityAPI is big enough to tackle technical challenges, but small enough to be agile and responsive. So the answer — returned within 24 hours — was an enthusiastic yes. UtilityAPI jumped on the project. Within 4 business days, the work was done. “UtilityAPI has been a great partner for our business, helping us solve big data challenges in an industry with ever-increasing amounts of them. We appreciate their flexibility and outside the box thinking of the team as well as their technical ability to make changes to scripts and processes that better fit our business and our needs,” said Lummis.
Amireddy confirms: “When I recently raised a support ticket on the website regarding an issue, the team was quick to respond and not only did they set a realistic expectation on when that will be solved but also kept us in the loop all along. Happy to be a UtilityAPI user.”
Does near-instant standardized data sound like might take care of some of your pain points? What are you waiting for? Start sending your customers authorization forms for their data today — that's a FREE service.
Because you care about fighting climate change [💚!] then data sharing is a topic you also need to care about. Here’s why.
The data itself isn’t the goal. It’s only the first step of the process that ends in stopping climate change. Every innovative clean energy company needs data in order to make their climate-saving improvements. Solar and EV charger installers need consumer data in order to propose systems that will work. Real estate and property managers need it to determine how efficient their systems are, and generate energy savings at scale. Thinking of installing a solar energy storage system? See if it’s feasible for you first — you’re going to need data. And then you’ll need more data (ongoing monitoring) to see if it’s working. Good data that’s easy to access undergirds every piece of technology we have to fight climate change.
Restricted data and haphazard sharing practices hurt us all — consumers, clean energy providers and utilities. They distract us from the actual work of fighting climate change, forcing solution providers and innovators to focus on getting the data they need to decarbonize and making utilities scramble to provide it. It doesn’t have to be this way.
To be clear, we’re not suggesting that private data be available to anyone. What we’re advocating for is easy-to-use data access if/when the consumer consents.
Once they have easy access to high quality data, innovators, providers and utilities are free to focus on what they actually want to do. The utilities that understand the importance of data sharing are leading the way with more progressive business models that benefit their customers and their bottom line. That’s good news for everyone. But there aren’t enough of them. Yet.
In the interest of encouraging more of this win-win progress, we’re going to share and break down UtilityAPI’s list of six guidelines for data sharing.
1. Full Data Set
What should happen: Standardized data set, available for historical and ongoing data access.
Why it matters: If/when data becomes available, it’s often incomplete or inconsistent to the point of being unusable. Standardized data encourages innovation by leveling the playing field. No one solution provider has an advantage based on what kind of data they can get or how much money they can pay for proprietary software to standardize the data. For a detailed list of what constitutes a full data set, feast your eyes on Appendix A, here.
2) In-the-Moment Data Access
What should happen: Data delivered on demand, upon authorization and authentication. Here’s the standard we’d like to see: within 90 seconds of an authorized data sharing request, the data should begin streaming.
Why it matters: Data delayed is often data denied (or forgotten about). Some utilities require up to 40 days (!) to respond to a data sharing request. A data sharing request shouldn’t require that much time. How many potential energy projects will wither and die after 40 days of neglect?
3) Instant, Digital Authorization
What should happen: Simple online authorization is all it takes to authorize data sharing.
Why it matters: We should get out of our own way. State and local governments have earnestly committed to admirable clean energy policies. We need to make it as easy as possible for concerned citizens and solution providers to actually make good on those promises. Consent doesn’t have to be cumbersome. Just obvious and clear.
4) Instant, Consumer-Centric Authentication
What should happen: All parties ask for the same consumer-friendly authentication credentials, for example, phone number + texted code, or utility login if they have one. No third-party should be held to a higher authentication standard than the utility itself.
Why it matters: Complex authentication and unexpected delays confuse consumers. They start to wonder if their data is still secure and private. Customers should be able to use a familiar online experience to authorize the release of their data using a proven and secure system.
5) One-click, Seamless User Experience
What should happen: Once a consumer who wants to share their data has authenticated their account, it only takes one click to start sharing. A utility account holder can begin and end the process on a third-party website. The consumer can approve or reject all requests, as they see fit. The consumer should get a receipt after they authorize data sharing that includes the ability to revoke consent at any time.
Why it matters: First, similar to #4, forcing the consumer to move between several websites in order to request data confuses people. Confused consumers worry that their data may be compromised. Furthermore, as online shopping has shown us, frictionless shopping experiences encourage people to buy. The same goes for clean energy projects. If we’re as serious about fighting climate change as we are about buying laundry detergent and toilet paper, we need to adopt the same tactic: frictionless buy-in.
6) Strong Security Protocols
What should happen: Both third parties and utilities use cybersecurity best practices to keep customer data secure. Current best practices include encryption at rest and in transit, token authentication for API, and transparency around how customer data is used.
Why it matters: You have to merit and earn trust. That’s a precious commodity. Encryption, audit logs, and keeping consumer data in the U.S. are key. We elaborate on recommended security elements in Appendix B here.
Want to talk more about consensual data sharing? It’s all we do, and we do it well. We’d love to hear from you. Utilities across the country are already working with our model to give their customers the data access they’re clamoring for (and that regulators are requiring). We design our systems to be reproducible country-wide. Let’s talk about how to make it work for you.
Police brutality and murder are the unsurprising outcomes of a larger issue that has been poisoning our country since its birth. The stain of white supremacy has tarnished our planet, our policies, and our pursuit of happiness as a people.
We know what to do about this problem. We know what programs and trainings can work. We know how to stop it. What we lack is the will to make the necessary changes.
You know what other problem we know how to solve? Climate change. Again, we know what works, but for the most part, we aren’t doing it. And we certainly aren’t doing it fast enough.
For too long as a country we have known the path forward, but we haven’t taken it. The path is hard. Changing things for the better can be painful, be it stamping out white supremacy or doing the necessary work to end climate change.
On a related front, study after study confirms that companies with a diverse management team out-perform less diverse companies. Diversity in the upper echelons of a company isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s best for business. And yet, most management teams stubbornly continue to lack diversity. We know what to do, but we aren’t doing it.
Reversing climate change and banishing systemic racism will lead to a stronger and freer future for all. At UtilityAPI, we are committed to doing the work.
Our leadership team shares no major demographic. This is a strength — our diversity makes our business stronger. As we grow, we commit to maintaining a diverse, open, and accepting work culture throughout our teams. We will also prioritize, support and work with other companies and organizations who are doing the same.
We invite you to join us.
Simple question: Does it matter?
Simple answer: YES.
UtilityAPI proudly identifies as a "mission-driven company.” Our mission is to fight climate change.
The way we fight climate change is by making it easier for you, our customers, to help people convert to, use and store clean forms of energy. We give you the energy data you need to do your business faster and more easily, with less risk.
This is decarbonization: the process of converting from carbon-based fuels — which both pollute our planet and contribute to making it warmer — to wind, solar or other non-carbon renewable forms of energy, which don’t.
So, just how much decarbonizing are we all doing when you use UtilityAPI’s fast, easy, accurate utility data?
Every month, UtilityAPI makes it possible for you and your customers to reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to driving 33,000,000 fewer miles. EVERY MONTH. That’s about 1300 fewer car trips around the earth every month.
Not that any of us is traveling much these days.
Still, 33,000,000 fewer miles driven per month is a number that matters. You matter. Your work matters, so our work matters. Without all of us doing the work of decarbonization together, the planet doesn’t really stand a chance.
Thank you for also being mission-driven. Thanks for decarbonizing with UtilityAPI. Thanks for hanging in there through COVID-19.
Decarbonizing is pretty great. Join us! Our data makes it so much easier for you to use online sales during these pandemic times, and beyond. What are you waiting for?
Dan Rosenberg had the same problem many of you have. He needed utility data faster.
Requests that used to take a week to come through were taking closer to a month. And often, only a fraction of the data would come in. Then his team would submit another request. And the whole month-long wait would start again. It was ridiculous. Or, as Dan Rosenberg put it more delicately, it was "a bottleneck for our development process."
For TerraVerde Energy, a company who builds their business on data analytics, the delays were also project-killers. But their partnership with UtilityAPI changed all that.
Saving money and the planet through energy efficiency
TerraVerde helps public schools and other agencies save energy and money. They construct advanced analytics and financial models to determine which solar and storage projects will best achieve those goals.
In order to do their work, they need access to a client’s billing history and interval data by meter. When the data request process got bogged down, TerraVerde looked for a better solution. They found it with UtilityAPI.
Three weeks or less than one hour: which would you prefer to wait?
When TerraVerde integrated with UtilityAPI, their data retrieval wait time dropped from three+ weeks to less than an hour. Now, once a client has authorized data sharing, they can compile anywhere from one to three years worth of billing and interval data nearly instantly.
It’s high quality data, too. The data itself is in “a much more usable format than what the utility itself would send us,” says Rosenberg. Although TerraVerde installs consumption meters at every site, there are hiccups. “They [consumption meters] are unreliable; sometimes there are a few months before they are installed or there may be gaps in the data, so to have those bills that have what the utilities are actually measuring is just more valuable.” UtilityAPI’s data is more valuable.
Automatic data refreshes make measuring impact easy
Automated data has further smoothed the entire process. TerraVerde takes advantage of UtilityAPI’s automatic data refreshes to measure the impact of a new system. They also compile an annual savings report for solar and storage projects using interval data.
What stands out for Rosenberg is how easy the process was. He collected 95% of the utility data he needed to create an annual report for a school’s July - June cycle “by running 100 lines of code for 10 minutes.” TerraVerde’s analysts simply direct UtilityAPI to update the meter data. Downloads happen automatically.
Next up: seamless, integrated data sweetens the deal
Because it’s so efficient, TerraVerde has been tweaking their software to rely on UtilityAPI as the primary data source. They‘re also integrating their clients’ solar monitoring systems with UtilityAPI. This way, they can calculate savings for these large scale projects automatically, then offer it on demand to their clients.
Delays are project-killers. But thanks to UtilityAPI, TerraVerde Energy has come a long way from having one person contact a utility rep, list 100 meters, and wait 3 weeks. You can, too! Get a free demo to see how much time we can save you.
Dear Solar Installers,
YOU are the heart of our industry. Without you, there is no solar energy sector. We (all) need your business to survive the Coronavirus shutdowns.
A Gift for You
Sales in the near future are going to have to be remote. That’s why UtilityAPI and OpenSolar want to give you 3 free months of awesome, easy utility data. We want to make remote sales as painless for you as possible.
To get your free data, you’ll need to register with AND use your (free) account at OpenSolar. That free data is your gift. But we see OpenSolar as a gift to our entire industry, too.
What is OpenSolar + Why it’s Great
OpenSolar is a full-service suite of new, free tools to fully digitize your solar installer business. Phone and remote sales. Design. Finance. Customer relationship management. [And, coming soon, live 3D modeling]. It’s all there. It’s all free to use, forever.
OpenSolar comes to you from industry veterans who know what you need. Their founders have infused their product with the wisdom gained in over two decades of experience in our industry (co-founding Sungevity, the first remote solar design company, and for the last three years, OpenSolar).
After a successful launch in Australia, where 20% of homes run on solar (the dream!), OpenSolar has made their full cloud-based tool available in the US. Take a minute to have a look. You’ll see how easy it is to go digital with OpenSolar. And if you’re already selling remotely, you’ll be impressed by the breadth and functionality of the OpenSolar tool.
Details + Fine Print
There is no fine print. It’s really just 3 months of free data when you use your OpenSolar account. Even if you’re already a UtilityAPI customer. You can read the press release for all the details, though.
👋🏼Your friends at UtilityAPI
If it’s not fast, it’s dead on arrival.
ARC Alternatives, a small San Francisco-based consulting company, wins contracts when they can analyze and deliver results quickly. Once they started using UtilityAPI, they were able to deliver those results more than 10x faster.
ARC is a collective of engineers and project managers. Their clients include public sector organizations, large institutions, and school districts in California. ARC figures out how those clients can save both energy and money.
ARC’s clients want the same fast, data-based answers that your customers do. How much will a proposed improvement cost? How much energy will they save? Is there a better way?
Before they found UtilityAPI, gathering data was often the hardest part of their workflow. ARC’s clients have many utility meters, many with limited or missing histories. In order to compile historical energy usage data, they had to work with local utilities to get their clients’ records. Once those utilities granted them access, they then had to track down the relevant historical data within the accounts.
The process could take weeks, depending on if/when the utility got around to responding. In short, the stuff of nightmares. We know many of you share this pain.
Once ARC partnered with UtilityAPI, that particular pain disappeared. UtilityAPI now makes energy data available with one simple authorization. What used to take weeks now takes less than 24 hours. Sometimes, it only takes five minutes. “UtilityAPI has modernized the method of retrieving historical utility data,” says Simon Olivieri, an ARC Alternatives engineer.
This ultra-fast access helped ARC streamline their process. And it made them hungry for more data. Now that ongoing data updates have strengthened their client relationships, ARC uses UtilityAPI for automated regular updates of usage data, which we call ‘ongoing monitoring’ as well.
The future belongs to the fast. Thanks to UtilityAPI, ARC Alternatives can take their shot at leading the pack.
You can go from clicking on the sign up link on UtilityAPI’s website to requesting your customers’ utility data in about a minute. Here’s your step-by-step guide to registering with UtilityAPI.
When you click on the sign up button, in the top right corner of UtilityAPI.com, the website will take you to our registration page. You’ll enter your name, your company email, and a password. Next you’ll pick how you want to pay.
‘Pay-as-you-go’ is the default option. You’ll pay absolutely nothing to request that your customer share data with you. Requests to share data are free. After your customer authorizes your request, you’ll pay $15 per meter for past “historical” data from a customer’s meter.
If you want a discount (who doesn’t want a discount?), you can pre-pay a lump sum to your account. The more you pre-pay, the bigger your discount. As you use UtilityAPI services, we’ll subtract the charges from your account balance. You can find all of our prices here. Your pre-paid lump sum will automatically refill when it runs out unless you choose to turn off that feature. If you turn off auto-refill, you will not be able to pull data until you have enough money in your account to pay for that data. Still have questions? No problem — just contact us.
We’re sticklers for privacy and consent. Data belongs to the customer who generated it. We won’t pull your customer’s data until that customer explicitly authorizes it. You’ll find all this and more written in legal language in our Data Services Agreement, which you’ll need to agree to if you want to do business with UtilityAPI.
Then, hit ‘Register’ and you’re done. Welcome!
Now you can start requesting data. Remember, data requests are free!
Next week, we’ll walk you through how to request data. But you don’t have to wait! We explain data requests here.
Want to communicate with an actual human being about this? Get a demo of how we work? Sure — just contact us.
All blog posts are to help UtilityAPI users connect with their customers and successfully collect their utility data.