Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Opower Savings

Developing new energy and power sources is not the only way to solve our nation’s energy problems and reduce dependence upon oil imports.  Bringing efficiency to the user side of the equation can also make a difference.  A small company with offices in Virginia and California Opower has developed a white-label customer engagement platform for electric utilities.  Essentially it is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) interface.  The company claims to have worked with 57 utilities around the U.S., serving more than 10 million households.

What sets Opower apart from other CRM applications is its focus on the unique neds of the utility operation and customer.  For example, the platform offers customers a Home Energy Report and Energy Alerts in addition to giving the utility a way to offer energy source alternatives.  Opower boasts that utility customers register substantially improved customer service ratings after using Opower.  On the utility side of the platform customer service representatives are given an array of computer-based tools to managed customer accounts. 

The CRM tools are encompassed in a patent-pending analytical platform Opower calls the “Insights Engine.”  It takes advantage the newest rave in the power industry  -  information based energy management or IBEM.  The idea is to use behavior science to understand and change power usage.  Then targeted, user-friendly communications take aim at mobilizing utility customers on a large scale to use energy more efficiently.  For example, utilities using the Insights Engine have discovered new success in promoting the adoption of dynamic rate plans and in-home hardware to control power usage.

Opower displays a meter on its corporate website ticking off kilowatt hours saved through its products and services.  The meter topped 470 million recently and continues to climb.  Some investors might consider this a modest beginning.  With only 57 utilities on board, the company has a long way to go to capture a meaningful share of the utility market.

The company is private, but if it scales up could present a potential initial public offering opportunity.  Accel Partners augmented the founders’ seed money to finance Opower’s development and beginning operations.  We expect the venture capital element to push for an exit at some point in the near future.  Opower has been added to the Efficiency Group of The Mothers of Invention Index and suggest investors join us in watching what happens at Opower.

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein. Opower is included in the Efficiency Group of The Mothers of Invention Index for alternative energy companies.

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