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How startups are disrupting utility data aggregation

<p>Until now, the commercial real estate industry has been one of the least touched by technology innovation.</p>

Your challenge: Collect two years of historical electric, gas, water and carbon data from more than 400 commercial buildings across the country.

Could you do it?

What if you also had to compile all that data into your first GRESB report?

Oh, and you have 60 days to get it all done.

Utility data collection and sustainability reporting: A common problem

The twin challenges of utility data aggregation and sustainability reporting are action items for every real estate asset manager and owner with $10 billion or more in assets/market cap. It's creeping up the agenda at smaller companies with less than $5 billion in assets/market cap.

"REITs hoping to use sustainability to evaluate their management are finding that collecting energy data remains a stumbling block," pointed out REIT Magazine. In a world where "the need to report on sustainability policies ... has flowed from the boardroom down to rank-and-file building managers," what was once a stumbling block has become an outright barrier. Want to access the $3.76 trillion in money dedicated to socially responsible investments? Make sure you measure and disclose on sustainability, otherwise it may be off limits.

But if money talks and real estate companies are listening, where are the solutions? Right now, they're few and far between. Customers seeking utility data collection and reporting solutions will find an incrementally evolving landscape of service providers offering the same heavyweight, bundled "solutions" virtually indistinguishable from those on offer over the last three years.

Why? The reasons are many, but one stands out above all — the commercial real estate industry is one of the least touched by technology innovation. "The [real estate] industry is rather antiquated," CompStak CEO Michael Mandel said, "and this is a huge market opportunity." As a result, legacy bill and energy management solutions are neither nimble nor affordable. They fail to solve the problem of utility aggregation at scale and often are bundled with other, superfluous services in order to up the price on companies who otherwise would purchase smaller, targeted (and therefore less lucrative) solutions. The result is a radically underserved market suffering from huge data and reporting pain.

Old problem, new solutions

This old world of legacy solutions is being turned upside down. In the last 24 months, $743.7 million has funneled into real estate-oriented startups such as Measurabl that aim to disrupt this paradigm of complex, bundled and expensive solutions by bringing targeted, user-friendly and affordable solutions to market. Measurabl's first product addressed the GRESB reporting challenge. Our next solution, Utility Sync, addresses the challenge of utility data aggregation and management by automatically importing data from your utility account and sending both historical and monthly go-forward data to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Whether required by laws such as AB1103 or compelled by stakeholders to disclose to benchmarks and standards such as GRESB, GRI and CDP, companies of all sizes and levels of sophistication are reporting on sustainability. A lack of data stops their efforts cold. In this light, the technical achievement of utility data aggregation and formatting en masse is powerful. When paired with a free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account that perfectly associates all this data with your assets, that's a home run.

Problem solved

So back to our challenge: gather thousands of historical meter readings from hundreds of buildings and file your first GRESB response inside 60 days. It's now possible. Multiple Measurabl clients accomplished this during the 2014 GRESB reporting cycle. Not only did they successfully submit to GRESB, but they also eliminated human error from their data capture process, ensuring regulatory compliance and establishing benchmarking and reporting processes via the creation of an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account. All at a cost of less than $0.0001 per square foot.

This article originally appeared at Natural gas meter image by Elena Elisseeva via Shutterstock.

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