April 2019 marks Metrus’ 10th year in business. This milestone has forced me to do something I don’t like to do: Look backwards. I much prefer to analyze the road ahead, but sometimes it’s nice to stop and appreciate the journey.
Early Days: In the early 2000s, I worked at Bechtel (Nexant) on project financing initiaitvies in the U.S. and in emerging markets. My work there was oddly split into projects that either involved financing new power stations or finding ways to reduce energy use inside the fence of industrial and commercial facilities. I got to see every day that saving a kilowatt-hour was far more cost effective than generating one. Despite this fact, there were no specific financing options available for energy efficiency. However, right around this time we started seeing financing structures like power purchase agreements (PPAs) beginning to be used for smaller scale renewable energy projects. I saw firms like MMA Renewable Ventures and Sun Edison using PPAs to scale solar, and started to think about similar ways to fund energy savings opportunities. I took this germ of an idea and gave it a home in Metrus.
Like most start-ups looking for financing, I heard “no” a lot. Most investors were looking for a quick home run or a new technology to grasp onto; however, we were creating a different type of energy asset class and we were selling efficiency-as-a-service.
As my father used to say to his little league hitters with two strikes in the count: “It only takes one (pitch).” In my case, I only needed one “yes.” In 2009, we secured our initial funding and landed our first project, with BAE Systems in New Hampshire. Working alongside established players (Siemens and Bank of America) on that initial project was a great way to break in…it also meant proving to a skeptical executive or two that a small player like Metrus belonged at the table. Fortunately, BAE and then other Fortunes 500 firms and institutions after them, believed in what we were doing, and we were off to the races.
Early Champions: Every little bit of help is significant when launching a business. In our case, there were a few organizations that stand out: Wilson Sonsini, our law firm to this day, took a bet on us and helped with drafting contracts so we could close our initial projects. The California Clean Energy Fund stepped up in a big way, providing marketing support and much-needed office space. Cliff Adams, Erik Birkerts, Terry Fry and Scott Henderson gave expert advice and Matt Hofherr designed our logo. Colleagues at Renewable Ventures, which spawned an incredible clean energy diaspora, showed me that it was possible to have an idea and go out on your own and be successful. My wife, Meghan, also gave me the courage to pursue this new business even though the timing was challenging—right on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis.
What’s changed in 10 years? The demand for sustainability and energy efficiency is much greater today. Customers are finally putting energy efficiency on par with supply side resources, and starting to think about equating that with the energy they’re saving. We’re nearing a tipping point in the market where customers are now asking for third party efficiency-as-a-service solution. We see it with the volume of deals we’re doing and in the tenor of customer discussions. We see it in the types of partners that we have. We see it in the number of competitors too, which has gradually increased over that span—showing that the space is maturing and evolving, and that there’s more understanding in the marketplace of what we do.
Today, Metrus can proudly point to projects that have saved more than one billion kWh of electricity, 830 million tons of CO2 and approximately 100,000 gallons of water. We’ve had projects in 23 states, but I see us as a 50 state company, ultimately one that works in international markets as well.
The best part of the Metrus journey is the group of people I get to work with every day. Our team, which has grown significantly over the last decade, is talented and versatile. They are exceptional at analyzing and solving problems; they can bridge an industry understanding with a financing perspective, and they expertly address customer specific issues or project challenges in order to get efficiency projects done.
I am optimistic about our growing business and the broad range of customers we serve. It’s clear to me that there’s a big shift underway toward creating a more sustainable and efficient built environment. We are excited to be part of the solution for the important journey that lies ahead.
Now, back to work.