In the midst of settling into new headquarters in Boston’s waterfront Innovation District, EnerNOC Inc., a software company that helps customers manage their electricity use, particularly during peak demand periods, was put to the test by a nearly nationwide heat wave. Chief executive Tim Healy, 44, spoke with Globe reporter Erin Ailworth about EnerNOC’s growth, its role in keeping the regional power grid stable earlier this month, and why its nearly 82,000-square-foot office space is full of toys.
You and EnerNOC cofounder David Brewster came up with the idea for EnerNOC following the California energy crisis in the early 2000s. Explain.
The Internet had changed every major industry, and we surmised that this industry, the energy industry, was one of the laggards. It was not one that real-time data, real-time information — basically the power of the Internet — had done much to transform.
So we kind of put two and two together and said we can avoid crises like the California power crisis if customers could be part of the solution, if they knew when to reduce electricity usage, if they had more tools and information and data in front of them when the price of power was high so they could enact measures to reduce their amount of consumption.
And that information comes from regular meter readings at customer sites?
It used to be that the average utility would read a customer’s meter once a month. We’re taking five-minute reads. That’s orders of magnitude more data about when energy is being consumed, when it’s being wasted, what opportunities there are to adjust that activity.
How is what EnerNOC does different from traditional energy management?
Energy management is something that firms engage in all the time but it’s usually, “I want to do a lighting retrofit project. I want to replace my 20-year-old boiler with more energy-efficient equipment.” What we’re talking about is how can we use data to help decision-making improve as it relates to how you schedule your operations, how you operate your facility, how you reduce unnecessary consumption that’s happening overnight, on weekends, or in parts of the facility that you don’t need.
You were founded in 2001 and went public in 2007. What has that meant for the company?
I suggest that we’re the fastest-growing software company in Massachusetts over the last decade. Find me another company that’s gone from zero to more than $300 million in revenue in the last 10 years that’s a publicly traded Massachusetts software company.
Talk about the recent heat wave and the role played by the demand response strategy that EnerNOC uses, where the company’s customers are paid to reduce their energy use at times of peak demand.
It was all systems go here at EnerNOC. We’ve spent over $160 million developing software and infrastructure just for this occasion. We test it, run mock demand response events with our customers. It’s a proven resource now, it’s no longer on the fringes of viability.
In some cases, we were making up to $1,800 a megawatt hour, and our customers were [earning] the majority of that money.
Now the important stuff: Explain the toys — three kayaks, five paddle boards, 24 scooters, and a foosball table — scattered around the office.
We’ve got people who are here 50, 60, 70 hours a week. Let’s make it fun to be here. Let’s provide kayaks so that people can go for a kayak at lunch time.
Let’s put seven showers in this facility so that anyone — whether they want to go for a swim out on the Harbor Islands at lunch time or kayak — [can go] and come back.
People love it. They want to know they’re working for a company that works hard, but appreciates that play has to be a part of it. We know how to play.