Eps Corp., an energy management company founded in 2001 by former Enron energy management employees, is offering companies a tool it claims offers immediate an return on investment: energy and energy cost savings, without the upfront capital costs of most energy-efficiency projects.
Its tool, xChange Point, comprises a software interface and hardware that attaches to manufacturing systems and machinery for real-time monitoring of energy use; it can also be used to control systems — changing temperatures, powering process elements on and off, etc. It provides an ideal solution for industrial customers looking to crimp energy use without a heavy, up-front investment, because xChange Point is provided as a service, not an in-house solution. (Think Zipcar, but for manufacturers, not drivers.)
As product manufacturers feel the squeeze from their customers on product costs and carbon footprint accounting, President and CEO Jay Zoellner says energy use is an area where they can instantly cut costs. “There’s just this overwhelming need for information about energy spend relative to products that they’re producing,” he says. In the current downturn, controlling the resource that they already have provides the best ROI — not retrofitting plants, adding solar panels or installing new equipment. To date, eps (formerly known as Energy and Power Solutions) says it has saved its customers more than $4 million in energy costs.
All of the installed hardware associated with xChange Point is owned by eps, and sensors report back to an on-site collector unit, which in turn reports collected data back to eps servers. That information is displayed on a web-based interface, where operations staff can track, compare and manage production energy use.
If companies identify problem areas in the system, eps says it’s willing to engage in additional consulting work to help install new technology or systems, but the xChange Point contract is non-exclusive; most customers likely have existing vendors with whom they can (and often prefer) to work. However, customers are typically asked to sign contracts that are three years long in order to guarantee Eps an adequate return on the investment required to install and set up the system.
UPDATE: In the 3-4 months eps has been marketing its system, Zoellner says demand has “exceeded our wildest expectations.” The company has signed up four major customers and has many more in contract negotiations, according to Zoellner. Two companies that have been announced are Dean Foods and Covidien, though the latter isn’t using xChange Point. And the system has potential benefits beyond just simple energy-use reduction.
Zoellner says eps is looking into using the xChange Point to monetize carbon credits from efficiency projects. If companies can pinpoint specific differences between systems in use at different facilities, or from actions undertaken at an individual facility, carbon reductions can be accounted for and monetized. Once a U.S. market for credits emerges, Zoellner say, “this will be the system that actual helps companies verify and certify their energy use and carbon emissions.”