The Tech That Cuts Costs & Saves Energy with SHIFT Energy’s Andrea Curry
October 14, 2015
John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good in beautiful downtown Chicago, and we are so honored to have with us today, Andrea Curry. She is the VP of Product Management for SHIFT Energy. Welcome to Green Is Good. Andrea Curry: Thank you. John Shegerian: So, Andrea, before we get talking about SHIFT Energy, share a little bit about your story, your journey leading up to becoming the VP of Product Management. How did you end up there? Andrea Curry: Sure. It’s actually one of those things. I guess lots of good things start this way. I worked for SHIFT’s parent company – Mariner Partners – and they sent me down to SHIFT on a two-day assignment about three-and-a-half years ago. And I am a crunchy person – I guess you would say. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: When I got down there, I guess I just felt that there was a big opportunity in this space and that we had the opportunity to help make the world a better place, and we sort of dug in and went from there. John Shegerian: Now, you are originally from Canada and Canada, typically, in the cities that I have had the pleasure of visiting – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver – is a very green country. Andrea Curry: Yeah. We try. John Shegerian: So SHIFT is based in Canada. What is the general mission and business model of SHIFT Energy? Andrea Curry: So we are a software company, so we are trying to bring technological advancement to the built environment – if you will – and, in particular, right now, we’re focusing on very energy-intensive buildings like arenas, stadiums, hospitals, those kinds of things. So essentially software has the ability to – with almost no environmental footprint – trim energy waste out of facilities just through the advancements that things like big data analytics computing can have. It really can be a game changer. So we’re trying to insert software in that equation and essentially share – how the model works is we go into a facility, and without any real investment from the facility, we’re able to trim waste and then save costs and work that back in. John Shegerian: So it’s just wasted energy? Andrea Curry: Wasted energy. Exactly. John Shegerian: So it’s, basically, SHIFT Energy is just focused on energy savings. Andrea Curry: Exactly. Yeah. John Shegerian: Wow. Andrea Curry: So water, natural gas, electricity, those things. John Shegerian: So this is proprietary software that was designed and developed in-house. Andrea Curry: That’s right. John Shegerian: And how many years ago did you launch this? Andrea Curry: We launched it last year in partnership with the Vancouver Canucks, actually. John Shegerian: Really? Andrea Curry: They were an early adopter in the sporting space. They loaned up Rogers Arena to co-develop this product, and we were able to save 20 percent of their energy costs, and that’s a 20 percent reduction in their carbon footprint as well. So it had monumental effects, and we launched last June, and we’ve been working with them to commercialize on that. John Shegerian: Wow. That’s a great calling card to have to start your business venture, right? Andrea Curry: It is, yeah. John Shegerian: Is the business model – and I don’t want to get too economic or share any proprietary secrets, but is the business model you charge for the software or you take a piece of the savings? Andrea Curry: Either. John Shegerian: Oh. Andrea Curry: We have both models so a customer can either buy it outright and own it and we support it or they can pay out of the savings as you go. John Shegerian: Which is basically a no-risk deal. Andrea Curry: Exactly. John Shegerian: And everyone wins. Andrea Curry: Exactly. John Shegerian: There is a great ROI on that for everybody because you believe in your product so much. Andrea Curry: Exactly. We believe in the savings, and we think that even in facilities that might feel like they are fully optimized from an energy efficiency standpoint, this technology opens up a new opportunity and really expands what is possible so we can typically still make significant improvements. John Shegerian: For our listeners and viewers out there, to find Andrea and SHIFT Energy, please go to www.ShiftEnergy.com. How many years ago did you join? Andrea Curry: About three-and-a-half years ago. John Shegerian: So when you were joining and you were talking to your CEO – Brock Sansom – how many competitors – when you look at the competitive landscape, this sounds like a no-brainer that there should be 50 different companies doing this, but is this really that unique and that proprietary that you’ve got really the better mousetrap here? Andrea Curry: I think so. John Shegerian: Well, that’s good. Andrea Curry: As the product manager. John Shegerian: You’re the VP of Product Management. Andrea Curry: It does seem that there is a lot of noise in the energy efficiency space. John Shegerian: Yes. Andrea Curry: There is a lot going on. There are a lot of people who claim that they have the technology. John Shegerian: Of course. Andrea Curry: In truth, we are really the only people who can make these incremental savings at this time. Now, I’m sure we will have competitors emerge as word gets out and we do have patents – or patents pending, I should say. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: But I think there will continue to be an influx of people into this kind of thing. John Shegerian: But you’re the leader. Andrea Curry: And good for them. There should be. John Shegerian: And good for them, yeah. Andrea Curry: It will make us better. John Shegerian: But, I mean, I’m sure the Canucks were approached by all sorts of people and all sorts of organizations and you won the bid and then you saved them 20 percent. Andrea Curry: Well, they’re a very savvy early adoption organization, I would say, and the team on the ground there had hired – really – the industry’s best in terms of who is running their facility. John Shegerian: Sure. Andrea Curry: And they were able to weed through the noise. John Shegerian: That’s awesome. Andrea Curry: And they knew this was a new thing that they hadn’t tried, and they gave it a shot. John Shegerian: Can you share with our listeners and viewers a little bit what is your energy optimization – EOS – program and how does it work? Andrea Curry: Yeah sure. So essentially EOS is the name of our product. It sits in the cloud and we integrate with buildings in the commercial environment, and most large buildings already have basic control in place so they have some sort of building automation system. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: We just layer on top of that building automation system. Every minute we grab all the data from the building, we ship it off to the cloud, we do some really complicated math. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: We come up with a better plan as to how the building could still meet the same requirements – not be hotter or colder. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: Still meet the same requirements but in a more energy efficient manner. Then we essentially write back to that same building automation system to physically make changes. So if you think about it we’re almost like the Uber operator – if you would. John Shegerian: Wow. Andrea Curry: If an operator could physically change 250 set points every minute in a building based on some predictive math and algorithms. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: Then it’s possible. But, obviously, that doesn’t scale in a building that size, so we automate that process. John Shegerian: So you use big data and predictive analytics and software and technology to make this happen. Andrea Curry: Exactly. John Shegerian: Two questions. I am so fascinated by what you are doing and because of this show I am so lucky to meet so many great leaders like you so I get a little bit of knowledge – enough where I’m dangerous – so here’s a question. So I have an arena that I want you to help me save energy in or some big public venue. So there are two opportunities. One, my operator has saved every record from day one on what we’ve spent on energy, how the arena runs in terms of the events that we have, and we hand that over to you. Andrea Curry: Right. John Shegerian: What about when there is less information? When you walk into a place that hasn’t been run that well, that has gone through many managers and they don’t have all the documents in one nice file like they should to be able to help you do what you do best, are you able still to be able to still pull a hat out of a rabbit? Andrea Curry: Yeah. We do. Utilities keep datas forever. John Shegerian: OK. Andrea Curry: So we can always go back to the utility with the customer’s permission and get utility billing information. John Shegerian: Got you. Andrea Curry: That is not – that’s great. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: But in terms of understanding what happened in the building, we can get a much tighter baseline and understand our impact a lot tighter if we also had some history in terms of when that has happened. John Shegerian: So more information makes you better. Andrea Curry: Makes us better. We’ll still optimize the building, but what we won’t know is how much impact we had in a short period of time so we’ll have to run for a much longer period of time. John Shegerian: To run your beta. Andrea Curry: Exactly. For the variants – essentially – to normalize. John Shegerian: Got you. Andrea Curry: Then after a year we can say, “OK, we saved 20 percent.” But month one will be like, “We’re saving somewhere between five and 50 percent.” John Shegerian: Got you. Whereas when you have all the documents and you have all the historical data literally right out of the box, first month, second month, you’re able to give great information back. Andrea Curry: Exactly. And sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll run for a period of time and collect minute-by-minute data and then try and apply that back to the baseline as an explainer. John Shegerian: Wow. Yeah. Andrea Curry: And that is helpful but still you have a very good understanding – I would say – of the situation. John Shegerian: What other savings – besides energy savings in terms of sustainability or reportable benefits on the building owner or the operator or the team owner, sustainability, environmental footprint, carbon reduction, what other benefits will we be able to report on and SHIFT Energy is able to get from this property? Andrea Curry: So operational efficiency would be one. John Shegerian: OK. Andrea Curry: So if you think about it machines run buildings pretty well. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: Except for exception scenarios where an operator needs to get engaged. So in terms of, if you tell us that this room at this time needs to be between 68 and 72 degrees, it will be between 68 and 72 degrees. John Shegerian: Really? Andrea Curry: If it’s physically possible with the [inaudible] in the building. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: So we’d end up with fewer complaints and better operating conditions. We also drastically improve the asset life because we typically run the building less hard, we run it leaner. Kind of think of Lean Six Sigma but applied to the built environment. John Shegerian: Using software to bring lean to the machines. Andrea Curry: Exactly. John Shegerian: Wow. That’s interesting. Andrea Curry: So we found in our health pilot that we’re just wrapping up with the University Health Network in Toronto that in some cases we’re running the building 50 percent as hard as previously. John Shegerian: So then the machines can last double as long. Andrea Curry: Double as long, which has a huge impact. John Shegerian: Double life. Wow. Andrea Curry: So that’s exciting. John Shegerian: As the building owner or the manager will you then provide me a dashboard of information that I’m able then to use for my CSR reporting and other things? Andrea Curry: Absolutely. We started as a dashboard company. John Shegerian: Really? Andrea Curry: So we are rooted deeply in analytics. We would always give kind of these to-do lists to our customers and say, “Here are the things you need to do to be energy efficient.” But of course people have day jobs and often they didn’t get to the list, and really where this came from was how can we solve that problem? How do we make that go away and just action the change? And that’s why we got into it. John Shegerian: Got you. If you’ve just joined us now, we’ve got Andrea Curry with us. She is the VP of Product Management at SHIFT Energy. To learn more about SHIFT Energy, please go to www.ShiftEnergy.com. You “guarantee persistent savings.” What does “persistent savings” mean in your vernacular? Andrea Curry: It means that the savings continue over time. A lot of energy efficiency approaches work really well initially, but the building changes, and as the building changes, then the effectiveness of what you might have set up to operate it more efficiency, unfortunately, it drifts – is the word we use in the industry. But with software and with using this technology, we can sort of dynamicize – if that’s a word – the building. John Shegerian: Right. Yeah. We made it a word right now. Andrea Curry: There it is. There you go. Such that if the conditions change over time, the software reacts over time as well. John Shegerian: Wow. Andrea Curry: So your savings stick around. John Shegerian: It’s a guarantee that you’re not a one-hit wonder. Andrea Curry: Exactly. John Shegerian: Wow. You got the Canucks on board. That is your great calling card. How has it been going to socialize your technology now? How have the sales been going throughout Canada and also in the United States? Andrea Curry: It’s going alright. We have a pretty solid pipeline and the Canucks have been very helpful in that. We are hopefully kicking off a couple of projects in the offseason this summer. John Shegerian: Good. Andrea Curry: So it looks good. We don’t have as much traction as we would like at this point, but no one every does. John Shegerian: No one in charge of sales ever does, right? Andrea Curry: It’s taken us about a year to really build up credibility in the marketplace. John Shegerian: Let’s talk about credibility. When did you get involved – when did SHIFT Energy get involved with the GSA, and why is SHIFT – why are you and Brock – here at the GSA now at the annual conference? Andrea Curry: Green Sports Alliance is a great organization. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: We were actually invited here last year by the Canucks. Michael Doyle – who is one of the founders – is the Executive VP at Rogers Arena. John Shegerian: Got you. Andrea Curry: And he said, “Look, you guys have got to tell the world about this technology.” John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: And this was just at the point of our launch last summer so we were very new and looking to just kind of start our path to commercialization. So we came down, and it was kind of one of those situations where when you’re on a really good date. It felt like “Wow, these guys get us and we get them,” so we see this as a great avenue to bring our technology and other technologies, use sport to improve the adoption and hopefully make a difference. John Shegerian: And your CEO – Brock Sansom – is speaking here? Andrea Curry: He is. He is speaking later today about net-zero buildings. John Shegerian: And talk a little bit about what his thesis is on net-zero buildings. Andrea Curry: Sure. So our approach – or my thought as a real greenie. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: Is the greenest thing you can ever do is not buy anything at all. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: So if you think about software and energy efficiency in particular, we feel like that is the first pillar to net-zero. Then you size and stock your generation and other things that you need on top of that storage, because if you think about it, trimming energy waste out of a utility has no environmental cost. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: There is no manufacturing, shipping, panel, etc. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: There is literally no lifecycle cost to it. So I think what he is going to share today is the roadmap to becoming net zero, what is the greenest way to get there and how does that make sense financially as well. John Shegerian: Got you. So you’re here at the Green Sports Alliance. So not only is Brock speaking but you have a lot of potential clients here. Andrea Curry: We do. John Shegerian: How is that going? Andrea Curry: It’s going pretty well. John Shegerian: Yeah? Andrea Curry: Yeah. What is exciting for us is we have a number of prospects that we have been working with already, and this was a good chance for us to reconnect with them and further some of those things. We’ve met some new folks here this year that are new to the Green Sports Alliance so generally we’ve been busy. John Shegerian: Sports is a great opportunity. What other kinds of venues – for our listeners and our viewers out there – should be using SHIFT Energy’s software and technology? Andrea Curry: So we look at, typically. 500,000-square-feet-and-up kind of range. John Shegerian: Got you. Andrea Curry: So big ones. John Shegerian: Commercial buildings. Andrea Curry: Commercial buildings. Hospitals. The most energy-intensive buildings in particular. Then, in terms of the uniqueness of our solution, you can get at these kinds of savings in a dynamic building that changes day to day, like an arena or a stadium or a hospital. In a static commercial building, you can get some level of the savings and the persistence manually because it’s occupied from nine-to-five. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: So you can do a pretty good job at guessing at that. There is less drift. John Shegerian: Right. Andrea Curry: We still think we’re better – of course – but in terms of a sweet spot, health, sporting venues, other venues. John Shegerian: After the Canucks and the 20 percent you saved for the Canucks, what other success stories has your EOS system had that you can talk about and give shouts-out to? Andrea Curry: So our pilot at University Health Network, we’re achieving about 20 percent savings there now as well. John Shegerian: Wow. Andrea Curry: So that is exciting. So we just launched in health, literally, a few weeks ago at the Clean Man Conference in Portland, Oregon, so we are very excited about that. Then there are a few others that are in the works, but I can’t talk about them yet. John Shegerian: Got it. Andrea Curry: But, hopefully, next year, when we speak, I’ll have a laundry list. John Shegerian: That would be great. Any final thoughts about SHIFT Energy and about what you’re doing here with GSA before we have to say goodbye today? Andrea Curry: No. I guess my one thought would be – going back to what Brock is going to talk about later. John Shegerian: Yeah. Andrea Curry: As you’re looking at your impact on the world, challenge yourself to think about what is possible. Technology has come a long way. What Google has done to the world and Apple has done to the world in the past few years has really opened up and caused a bunch of emerging technologies to really create opportunities where you might not even know they exist. That would be my parting message – dig deep and try to figure out how to put those things together. John Shegerian: That’s a great message, and we thank you for joining us today and sharing the SHIFT Energy story. For our listeners and viewers out there that want to find SHIFT Energy and contact Andrea and use their great software to save money and save energy, please go to www.ShiftEnergy.com. This has been the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good, and to find the Green Sports Alliance, please go to www.GreenSportsAlliance.org. Andrea Curry, thank you and your colleagues from SHIFT Energy for making the world a better place. You are truly living proof that Green Is Good.