The energy storage industry has grown to become a $100 billion market, projected to reach $250 billion by 2040. This massive valuation is due, in part, to more than 50% of consumer energy bills being attributed to peak hour charges. Noticing the need to make energy usage more affordable and efficient, paired with a passion to improve the planet, one entrepreneur launched a company aimed at transforming the way we use energy.
Founded in 2009 by Vic Shao, Green Charge Networks designs and installs commercial energy storage systems. Their mission is to empower businesses, municipalities, and schools of all scales to use energy more efficiently, by limiting carbon emissions and minimizing costs through servicing energy storage. Energy storage is designed to help avoid drawing energy from the grid during peak hours, instead charging itself during regular hours when energy is cheaper. By using energy storage as a method to balance peak power demands, power efficiency increases. This subsequently reduces demand charges, reduces capital expenditures for service upgrades, and improves the planet by decreasing the usage of power plants.
Green Charge was the first to market with an ROI-driven energy storage product. Now, the company stands as the largest provider of commercial energy storage in the country, boasting a growing portfolio of 48 MWh of battery storage projects deployed or under construction across more than 150 sites. In addition to expanding their reach, the startup has successfully helped customers across the United States cut the cost of their electric bills by up to 30%.
To date, Green Charge has raised over $56 million in two rounds of funding. In May, Green Charge was acquired by global energy power Engie, an industry-leading battery storage company. Leveraging an innovative suite of patented software algorithms and smart data, Green Charge deploys, owns, operates, and optimizes battery systems across both private and public sectors.
In 2015, the company won the coveted Energy Storage North America Innovation Award for for their 20MWh California Schools and Utility Trust program. This was the second consecutive year Green Charge received the award.
I spoke with Green Charge CEO and Founder Vic Shao about the vision behind his company, the future of energy storage and his plans to preserve the planet while saving millions of dollars in the process.
With debates about climate change increasing and clean energy being a hot topic — What specific void or opportunity did you discover that prompted the idea behind Green Charge?
Vic Shao: Energy storage is not a new idea – the Department of Energy (DOE) has been experimenting with it for decades. But it’s always large, grid-scale, installed on the utility side of the meter. This has never grown out of the lab stage after decades of toying around. The problem is that utilities and governments simply don’t have the capital to deploy at scale. The opportunity, and the main idea behind Green Charge, is that energy storage requires collaboration on both sides of the meter. And why would the private sector customer want anything to do with storage? Because it has a business case – there’s a known ROI to an energy storage project. The trigger for customer benefits is the idea of reducing demand charges. But, fundamentally, storage is a technology that increases the efficiency of the distribution grid, and if we can build it at scale, then everyone benefits – from ratepayers to the utilities.
Beyond saving money and better managing energy use — What is the bigger picture benefit of utilizing an energy storage company like Green Charge?
Vic Shao: Commercial and industrial organizations can benefit from adding energy storage to their sustainability plans, from increasing the use of renewables and adding resilience to cutting demand charges and supporting the grid. Additionally, pairing solar and energy storage holds significant potential to drive a transformation of the electricity grid and industry. As the technologies and vendors continue to mature, it is expected that further declines in cost will enable a greater number of customers to benefit from solar and storage solutions.
Seeing the growth of companies like Tesla and Solar City, people are noticing the true earning potential of clean energy — Do you see more cities & companies being open to implementing smarter solutions for providing clean energy or turning to better ways to preserve power?
Vic Shao: Yes, because clean energy not only promotes lower cost, but it also improves resiliency and ROI. For example, a combined solar and storage solution can be configured to enable an island-able microgrid for a C&I facility with the potential to power critical loads indefinitely. Combining a clean energy solution can reduce project development costs. including customer acquisition, permitting, installation and grid interconnection.
In regards to energy use and preservation — What type of world do you wish to see in the next 5 to 10 years and how realistic do you believe that vision is?
Vic Shao: We believe energy storage will be used to power the world efficiently and sustainably. Google, for example, recently announced their goal of going to 100% renewable by 2017. To accomplish this energy storage has to be part of the answer.