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New Clean Energy Marketplace Joins Silicon Valley Rush to Green Buildings

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(Bloomberg) -- A San Francisco startup is looking to capitalize on the efforts by colleges, offices, and corporate campuses to reduce their carbon footprints. Station A is an online marketplace that connects building operators with businesses offering solar paneling, battery storage and electric vehicle charging.

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Part of a wave of technology companies offering services to ease the transition to net zero, the venture has given an “energy grade” to more than 765,000 buildings in the U.S., representing over ten thousand square feet. The grade is based on a building’s estimated long-term savings from efficiency upgrades. To make its calculations, Station A combines financial, satellite, utility and proprietary data. The startup plans to take a commission from deals cut on its marketplace, although it declined to share the terms..

Chief executive officer Kevin Berkemeyer says the startup is like a “Zillow of clean energy.” And he argues that its central marketplace replaces the existing convoluted system for purchasing. “We’re mainly competing with the status quo,” he said. “At the end of the day, the customer’s interests are not well represented in the in the traditional process.”

In 2018, Station A spun out as a standalone company from NRG Energy Inc., the oil and gas firm that, like its peers, has invested into Silicon Valley as part of its promised shift to more renewable production. Berkemeyer said the Texas company, where he previously worked, is a shareholder in Station A.

Commercial buildings account for over a third of U.S. electricity usage, according to the Department of Energy. Several states have established targets for buildings to cut carbon emissions in coming decades; California’s plans calls for half of all commercial buildings to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

Money has poured into energy suppliers and companies that offer building retrofits in the past decade. Now there’s a smaller stream of investment into businesses providing resources for buyers planning to go green. Redaptive Inc., a company that installs lighting and air conditioning upgrades in commercial buildings, raised $157 million in 2020. Others, such as PassiveLogic and Extensible Energy, provide sensors and software to building owners to manage energy usage more efficiently.

These companies are all searching for the “lowest-hanging fruit” to convince businesses to spend more on cleaner tech, explained Jon Bonanno, a clean energy investor with Strategic Operating Partners. “That’s the key to enormous decarbonization very quickly,” he said.

According to Berkemeyer, the Station A marketplace has identified more than $135 billion in potential savings in buildings listed on its service. The work can be financed with no money down. For others, the startup, which has raised $5 million since 2018, could lean on its investors like NRG, Southern Power and Schneider Electric SE, power companies equipped to provide installations. (Berkemeyer says these investors don’t have any special treatment in the marketplace.)

But simply giving a snapshot of the savings and green benefits of adding a solar roof or electrical heating might not be enough. Many mom-and-pop property owners are reluctant to make such upgrades that require complicated financing and risk, said Bonanno, the investor. “They’re extremely conservative,” he added. “Being able to show [them] the data is a good first step, but it’s not the last stop.”

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