Brandon Fletcher, CEO and co-founder of Green Analytics

"Energy efficiency has taken a backseat but is quietly making its move forward"

In this exclusive interview, Renewable Energy Magazine’s Content Director, Toby Price spoke to Brandon Fletcher from Green Analytics about the company’s mission and the issues faced by the energy saving and efficiency sector.
"Energy efficiency has taken a backseat but is quietly making its move forward"

Green Analytics, Inc. from Arkansas (US) describes itself as “an energy conservation firm” and reveals that its mission is “to create a sustainable environment for all and save companies energy and money at the same time”. The company has a portfolio of energy efficiency solutions which it claims provide immediate savings on energy costs and pay back in Returns on Investment in only three years or less.

It does this by installing a system of energy conservation equipment and products that eliminates out-of-pocket expense and maximizes return from cash flow. These include everything from capacitors, solar heat, roof coatings and window films to air movers, custom-spec LED lights, etc. “Typically, we install our system, create a savings, and then share that savings with the client until the cost of the system is paid in full,” the company explains.

Green Analytics transitions companies to be environmentally sustainable using energy-saving solutions that are financed with zero up-front cost. It negotiates with customer’s energy providers to explore any possibilities of lowering their cost per unit rates, and works with an accredited certified engineering firm who uses approved software for modelling and qualifying customers’ facility for any tax credits generated from the reduction of energy usage. Finally, Green Analytics monitors energy usage to insure customers are receiving the maximum benefit from the improvements made.

Green Analytics says it has managed to marry energy efficiency and financial freedom for businesses looking to revamp and get ahead. In fact, Brandon Fletcher, the company’s CEO and co-founder, prides the company on 'finding a fiscally correct way for everyone to say ‘yes’ to energy-efficient technology."

Brandon has directed multiple hundred million dollar return projects for large retailers including Wal-Mart, where he served as the head of US Strategy reporting to the CMO for Wal-Mart US. He managed projects in health care, pricing, logistics, and sustainability. Brandon worked on the officer team of A.T. Kearney in Eastern Europe, and developed merchant strategies in multiple countries. He returned home in 2009 to form Green Analytics, LLC. Brandon holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BA in Political Science and Economics from Northwestern University. Brandon is a CEDA National debate champion and due to debate has researched and debated every aspect of climate change for two decades.

Interview date: March 2011

Interviewer: Toby Price

So, Green Analytics focuses on “finding a fiscally correct way for everyone to say ‘yes’ to energy-efficient technology". Could you expand on this statement?

We find a fiscally correct way for everyone to say “yes” to energy efficient technology. The current marketing of green is that you are a ‘bad person’ for not going green. Green Analytics provides green technology that is profit maximizing, and you are a ‘bad financial manager’ for not going green. There could be nothing at all wrong with the environment, and it would be stupid not to say “yes”. We can do this because we are dedicated to technologies that are ‘better, faster, cheaper’ not just ‘greener’.

Your company employs a plethora of energy saving and efficiency technologies. Which have the most potential and why?

Air cooling solutions and lighting solutions. In a building, if you take a data center and watch it via thermal imaging, you see that there are hot zones going through the ceiling and cold air coming through the floor. Using thermal imaging, you can literally see the money seeping out through the ceiling. Anyone can understand that. We correct this by correcting the airflow patterns with an air circulation system that reduces energy use by 25-50% (dependent on the type of facility).

Green Analytics also helps customers benefit from producing their own renewable energy? Do you believe energy saving and renewables go hand-in-hand?

They have to go hand-in-hand; otherwise, the client receives an inferior return on their investment. If you make a solar panel to support all the building’s needs before upgrading the lighting and HVAC, you buy 50% more solar than you needed. If you try to eliminate all electricity cost through a perfect building, you face diminishing returns- as reducing each incremental kilowatt is more expensive than making kilowatt on site through solar or wind. Firms who do not offer the full solution have an incentive to sell you the biggest package of their technology they can justify. They find some way to save energy, we find the best way.

As someone who keeps track of both sectors, it certainly appears to me that at present, energy saving takes a back seat with renewable firmly in the driving seat. Do you agree and why does energy saving not seem to attract the same amount of interest/investment as renewable? Is it just not “sexy” enough?

Energy efficiency has taken a backseat but is quietly making its move forward in terms of impact. It does not gain the funding interest because it requires lots of smaller investments around many technologies and in several geographies. Ultimately, VCs enjoy when your one great bid investment flows through an existing distribution channel, i.e. a big solar field just has to get hooked up to the grid. We have to hook up thousands of clients with the right technology. Yes, we are more a girl you marry, not as sexy, but a better partner over the long run. Though, the sexiness is how dramatic an impact we can have today relative to renewables. We just ask people to do the market size math with us, and the Trillion-dollar market size seems pretty sexy.

Raising awareness of the benefits of energy saving certainly seems to be a priority, but it appears the industry lacks a voice. I am constantly bombarded with press releases and statements from the European Wind Energy Association, national solar PV associations and the like, but very rarely receive anything from representatives of the energy saving industry. Why is this? Is a global energy saving association needed to act as a voice for the industry?

The industry is missing a voice because it is still trying to figure out what to say. Most of the large companies were and still are worried about new buildings more than retrofits. The LEED movement, which includes all notions of green, has made the process complex, the market high end, and the price point prohibative. The major ESCOs, Energy Service Companies (Johsnon Controls, Velioa, Amerexco), still focus on municipals, schools, and monster corporations like they have since the 1970s. We think we have the right message that every building can save 30-60% of their energy with a payback of 3 years or less. Clients deserve to have the audit, install, and financing provided by a one-stop shop, and the industry has to catch up to get noticed from the media.

In the European Union for example, 36 executives of household appliance companies had to come together recently to urge political leaders to introduce a binding commitment to deliver the 20% energy savings target by 2020. Binding targets already exist for renewables, but why do we seem so reticent about committing to saving energy when it is so easy (and relatively cheap) to do?

Naturally, people are resistant to change. And, the fundamental challenge is that programs work well when a few largely motivated folks are required to act. The Montreal Protocol worked well because it was maybe 100 firms that had to change behavior to reduce ozone damage. Energy efficiency in buildings requires 100 million owners to change behavior on something that is 1-2% of their total expense. Widely distributed commitments are difficult to enforce and difficult to monitor. Ultimately, we do not expect the government, industry associations, or non-profits to help much. All we need from them is to communicate the message that it is shameful to not make a 33% return on investments in energy efficiency. Third parties can help raise awareness, but firms like ours have to make it simply stupid to not act. We are stunned that some companies do not act when the payback is under a year. That is already an unintelligent financial decision; we need help making the client understand that it is an immoral decision as well.

What about state-side? American’s are not known for holding back when it comes to energy usage, ranking highly in terms of both total consumption and per capita usage compared to other nations around the world. Are things improving in this respect (at both a domestic and industrial level) and if so, what are the main driving forces behind this change?

Things are improving. The U.S. EPA has issued new guidelines for the Energy Star program. At the domestic and industrial levels consumers are noticing that one does not need solar panels or wind turbines to reduce their energy consumption. But, the adoption is relatively slow. The force behind change is the grudging acceptance that Americans are wasteful. We do not know exactly what to do about that feeling, but the wheels are in motion. Firms like ours have to make reducing energy waste easier, or the trend we turn into is apathetic green-washing.

How important are smart grids and meters in bringing down our energy consumption?

Smart grids are not too critical from a savings perspective. It depends on the utility you talk with, but relative to water (which losses maybe 40% in distribution waste) electricity slightly more at about 2-4%. The biggest waste is at the end user level, most US buildings have no capacitors or other balancing devices. So end-user metering can help by bringing attention to the problem. That is why we make capacitors a part of our portfolio in markets where there is some charge for low power factor. We think this will be a huge market by 2014 as more grids come to grips with their client side waste.

Do you think florescent low-energy light bulbs all they are cracked up to be in terms of their energy balance? If not, what should we be using: LED lighting?

CFLs have some nice, but limited uses. CFLs, LEDs, induction, and controlls are needed in combination to get somewhere. Though, we like LEDs more and more, as the problems are being addressed faster than generally acknowledged in the press. In fact, we are able to get a better total return with LEDs than T-5 flourescents in industrial settings. However, we use everything as needed to get the right balance.

As an expert in energy saving and efficiency, what top three tips would you give to a) homeowners and b) companies to reduce their energy demand?

a) Home owners can do okay themselves on a few things:

- Get intelligent controls on your HVAC and lighting.

- Upgrade appliances.

- Treat windows, gaps and doors.

Then involve someone who will solve the rest, because you will pay too much. Even for simple things like CFLs, we can sell and install them more cheaply than you can buy them at a store.

b) Call someone. Call someone like us. Call someone like us now.

We see building after builidng where the facilities manager just ordered lights on their own. They almost always paid 20% more than our installed price. The industry is designed to maximize its profit on folks who make one purchase every 3-5 years. You cannot do better on your own. I promise.

Lastly, if you had the chance to dine out with Energy Secretary Chu, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, and the Chairman of the World Energy Forum Dr. Harold H. S. Oh, for example, what energy-saving issues would you discuss with them over coffee?

I would share the idea of an optimal zero carbon retrofit with a five year or less payback. We would discuss all of the innovations around the world that are driving toward this dream where the right building improvements, personnel behavior changes, and on-site energy generation could fix each building type in each climate. Perhaps, I would persuade them to put their resources for coordination into working on a few hundred prototype projects that meet this stringent financial return hurdle. We have plenty of utopian designs, we need help making and marketing some financially practical designs.

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