Cambridge-based startup Energy Points launched this week, when the company also announced a $3 million investment from Plan B Ventures to create a “universal metric for measuring sustainability across all resources.” The company’s SaaS platform offers enterprise users a way to see, at a glance, just how much energy their various assets and projects use around the world, and as a result identify inefficiencies or areas for improvement.
Dr. Ory Zik, Energy Points founder and CEO, was previously the founder and CEO of HelioFocus, a solar thermal solutions company. It was during his time at HelioFocus that Zik realized businesses needed a common language to talk about sustainability and environmental impact. In an interview he said that CFOs can point to spreadsheets and figures and be relatively easily understood; Chief Sustainability Operators or their equivalent at organizations have no such lingua franca. People talk about units of carbon, megawatt hours, gallons of water, etc., but these are nebulous and not often easily grasped by corporate audiences.
Zik says there’s one standard of measurement for energy that most people understand, especially in the U.S.: gallons of gasoline. It’s a form of measurement that offers the advantages of being both accurate and easy to grasp. People understand miles per gallon, and a gallon of gasoline contains around 35kWh of energy, so it works well as a simple way to convey energy usage to a general audience. There’s nothing simple about how Energy Points arrives at the scores it assigns various regions (it can zero in on the level of specific counties in the U.S.). The measurement system Zik and his team developed over the course of the past two years takes into account minute details that affect the sustainability of resources, ones that might not be apparent from just what you see on the meter or at the pumps.
These can include factors like elevation of water sources, as well as the distance resources need to travel to reach facilities. “If you consume 10 gallons of water, clearly the value will be different in the Sahara or in London,” Zik observes. Realizing that, he said Energy Points “started to build maps that take into account the geographical variation of resource use, from electricity to water, and in some cases waste and toxic waste” and then converted that information into an easily graspable unit of measurement, specifically gallons of gasoline.
The process isn’t without challenges, as international markets vary in terms of how forthcoming they may be with the information needed to allow Energy Points to populate its maps with data. In the U.S., Zik says “there’s a lot of public information, supplemented by purchased private information” that allowed for an amazing level of clarity at county-level, but in some places like China, information is a lot harder to access. Energy Points has still managed to put together a remarkably comprehensive global overview, and aims to increase the resolution of its findings in the future.
“We focus only on environmental sustainability,” Zik is keen to note. It’s true that Energy Points provides a way for c-level enterprise stakeholders to quickly see the financial costs of sustainability, too, but Zik isn’t as concerned with factors like tax incentives that offset environmental costs. Those are well-covered elsewhere, he says, and Energy Points is aimed at addressing the gap in environmental sustainability, which is one that businesses find themselves increasingly needing to address.