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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 30 May, 2017
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This startup wants to save companies a tidy sum on their energy bills

Energy Elephant’s big idea is deceptively simple.

THERE ARE ENOUGH things to worry about when running a business, or even worse, trying to get one off the ground.

Keeping employees and the banks happy while trying to turn a profit, the last thing one needs is the headache that comes with energy bills.  Except that is when those bills are enormous.

Which is where a startup called Energy Elephant comes in. Based in Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks, their idea is a deceptively simple one – give them your bills and a meter reading and they’ll show you where you can make savings.

EnergyElephant Team Energy Elephant CEO Joe Borza (left) with co-founder Eoin Ó Fearghail

Simple that is until you realise some businesses can save in the region of 20% on their energy costs.

For a company with an energy outlay of €200,000 in a year, the benefits are obvious.

“Well the idea stems from the fact that most people don’t understand their energy bills or where our energy comes from,” says company CEO Joe Borza, a ten-year energy consultancy veteran.

Borza and Eoin Ó Fearghail launched the company in 2011.  So how does it all work?

EnergyEle

“It’s a completely simple 3-step process,” says Borza.

Download the app and submit an inital meter reading, create an account and submit your energy bills as far back as you have them, and then give us monthly readings via the app and we’ll monitor your efficiency.

EnergyElephant User Display The company's user interface

The company is primarily concerned with businesses, although they monitor the residential market as well for anyone who wants to run their bills by them (it’s open to anyone using the firm’s app – they even had a submission from Kazakhstan recently).

Really the focus is on SMEs because they’re the ones who have most trouble understanding their bills.  You’ll find larger companies are cottoning on to the fact that there are big savings to be made if you’re energy conscious, although we do have some large chains and the prospect of their associates taking us on also.

So what kind of savings are people making, and how does the firm make its money?

EnergyElephant App Display Energy Elephant's app

“It can be as basic as a building running its heating at the same rate year-round, or not recognising the benefits of having separate day and night meters,” says Borza.

If you’ve got a big hotel with 200 rooms behaving in that manner you can imagine the kind of bills they’ll run up.  When they work through us we’ll remind them when it’s time to change their system.  We also advise on tariffs and supplier-switching.
We make our revenue in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, the subscriber pays a nominal annual charge – usually less than 0.5% of their energy costs – and we do the rest

Hotel energy use typical graph Energy use of a typical hotel

Has it been hard to get the brand out there for such a niche service?  Energy Elephant is part of Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers startup programme for 2015, so what benefits have they seen from the programme?

“Well New Frontiers is all about sales really – we’re all engineers who like to talk about our technology, but you have to get the brand out there and talk about the benefits you can provide and that hasn’t been our forte,” Borza admits.

Having said that, you can do a lot of shouting but in a crowded room you won’t be heard.  So for us a lot of it is making the product as good as possible, then your clients will ‘champion’ what you do and word of mouth will do the rest.

Three bits of wisdom if you’re starting your own business:

  • “Talk to customers, but it’s much more important to listen to them so you know you’re giving them what they want.”
  • “Always ask why. Why, why, why. Know why you are doing something, and why users may struggle with your product.”
  • “Plan, but get cracking! The best time to get something done is yesterday, and you can learn from mistakes so don’t plan for perfection.”

So what’s next for this startup now that things are starting to go their way?

“In five years time I’d like to think we’ll be a global player when it comes to energy analytics, helping our users reduce their costs and eliminate waste,” says Borza.  Well, there’s nothing wrong with aiming high.

Google collect and make sense of the world’s data, I want us to do the same for people’s energy.

You get the sense that Borza is in the perfect role – his passion for cleaner energy is plain to see (and if you’re not sure the EnergyElephant Twitter account tweets about how much renewable energy the country is using almost every day!).

So, how is Ireland doing when it comes to being green?

Smart Energy Traffic Light EnergyElephant

“We talk the talk on sustainable energy here but we definitely struggle a bit with walking the walk, though organisations like SEAI (Sustainable Energy Awareness Ireland) are doing their best,” says Borza.

Having said that, we actually rank quite highly as a country when it comes to being green – up to 75% of our electricity comes from renewables at times, and in 30 years we probably won’t be using any fossil fuels at all.
Our biggest challenge is transport – we’re almost exclusively oil-based.  It’s also our biggest opportunity though.

It’s good to know that Ireland can be known for being green in more ways than one.

This month, as part of TheJournal.ie’s ongoing small and medium enterprise (SME) focys, we look at business and the environment, and ways of making an enterprise more sustainable.

To view other SME stories from our collection, click here.

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