Carol Brzozowski 2016-06-07 10:59:45
Energy services offer great opportunity, but a lack of funding inhibits its potential, Fritz Kreiss asserts. Kreiss is CEO of Alternative Utility Services (AUS). The Lake Geneva, WI-based company is a licensed energy aggregator for gas, electricity, and energy services, including lighting retrofits, geothermal, and combined heat and power (CHP) in 38 states. Kreiss is also CEO of Community Green Energy (CGE), which has developed a nationwide Community Virtual Solar Garden platform. Solar gardens enable communities to obtain clean, affordable, renewable solar energy to power their facilities while ensuring local ownership and offering all community members the opportunity to own and benefit from solar. To counter other financial roadblocks, AUS has developed options for geothermal HVAC, CHP, and Lighting-as-a-Service (LaaS) options requiring no client investment or maintenance. The approach is patterned after the significant growth in solar use created by third-party solar financing in which end users pay for electricity at a savings. Instead of paying for the geothermal HVAC system, the end user agrees to buy BTUs at a discount to the current costs paid for heat, hot water, and cooling using existing equipment and efficiencies. The approach derives savings in both energy and capital expenses, notes Kreiss. “CHP is similar, only the end user’s energy usage profile will differ from the geothermal candidate,” he says. “CHP can be done even if the end user has new equipment since they are just generating electricity at a savings with no investment. LaaS removes the capital expense holdup and provides lighting upgrades with savings from the first day, with no investment or maintenance and replacement throughout the contract. People really don’t want to buy bulbs—they want light. If they can get light and save money without any capital out of pocket, they can concentrate their resources on their business.” In teaming with CGE, AUS is rolling out a single-contract Solar Power and LaaS power purchase agreement combining rooftop solar electric and a lighting upgrade in an effort to enhance the ROI, especially in markets where solar remains marginally cost effective, says Kreiss. It’s an attractive option for facilities such as school campuses that can’t utilize federal solar investment tax credits or depreciation benefits and expands solar to markets that don’t have high electric rates or other solar benefits like Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or a feed-in tariff, Kreiss adds. The nationwide Community Virtual Solar Garden launch allows for 75% of the market that currently can’t participate in solar because the facility is rented or has a shaded lot or bad roof, Kreiss says. Subscribers can participate in a central solar installation and get electric bill credits. Says Kreiss, “NRG Energy and Sun Edison both feel community solar gardens will be a bigger market than commercial solar.” What He Does Day to Day “Our day-to-day operation for energy procurement runs itself, so most of my time is spent in developing new products in energy services and our Community Virtual Solar Gardens,” notes Kreiss. What Led Him to This Line of Work “As a distributive science major, anything technical always interested me,” says Kreiss. In late 1989, he and a partner bought out a small cogen R&D group. In 1993, he started AUS doing cogen (now called CHP) and energy efficiency on a shared-savings basis. What He Likes Most About His Work Kreiss says he enjoys watching the “amazing changes and innovations” in energy unfold and looks forward to more in the next decade. “Energy innovation in renewable, storage, onsite generation, and LED improve the environment, make business more sustainable, and we make money being a solutions integrator,” he says. “The utility monopoly based on electric consumption will have to change, and perhaps no longer get the guaranteed profits they have relied on over the last century.” His Biggest Challenge Running a small company means managing internal resources for the best outcome, says Kreiss of his biggest challenge. “Capital is always an issue for internal growth and for project funding,” he says. “We are now developing more strategic partners that can share in our products and solutions across the country as a partial solution. There is no shortage of opportunity.” BE Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.
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