What Would Sun Tzu Do? A summer spent analyzing the competition for EnerNOC

by Duncan Cooper, MBA '13 (7/20/12)
Duncan Cooper, MBA '13

Boston-based clean energy firm EnerNOC wants to know more about their competitors and how they can most effectively compete in a crowded market for building energy efficiency software.

Did you know that buildings in the United States account for roughly 7% of global primary energy consumption?[1]  This means that building efficiency, both in the US and abroad, is a vital part of any effort to reduce energy consumption and associated pollution.  It also means that making buildings more efficient is big business; more efficient buildings save their owners thousands of dollars per year in reduced energy bills without any decrease in occupant comfort.

As I write this, I am halfway through my summer internship at EnerNOC, a company at the forefront of building efficiency technology.  EnerNOC’s core business is demand response.  Utilities pay EnerNOC, who then contracts with commercial, institutional, and industrial energy users to reduce energy consumption during times of peak demand – typically anywhere from 0-100 hours a year.  In recent years, EnerNOC has been focused on diversifying its product suite and has made strong headway into the energy efficiency market – a fragmented and highly competitive market where vendors are competing not only for wallet-share, but also for mindshare.  Traditional service providers (ESCOs), building control hardware providers, and software start-ups are all competing for a share of the market, which Industry reports estimate will to triple to $6 billion by the year 2020.[2]

EnerNOC’s data-driven energy efficiency suite includes five products: Plans, Audits, Assessments, Commissioning, and their data-driven energy efficiency software as a service, Insight.  Insight gathers real-time data from a building’s utility meters and building management systems.  That data is comprised of millions of data points per day and is processed by a team of energy professionals at EnerNOC to create a list of energy efficiency measures that the building operator can implement to reduce their energy consumption.  The analysts also prioritize the list and calculate the return on investment for each recommendation to make things as easy as possible for building operators and ensure that limited resources are used wisely.

EnerNOC interns
EnerNOC summer interns Marc Manara, Jonathan Crimins, Duncan Cooper (Johnson MBA '13) and Jeffrey Schub.

My internship at EnerNOC is focused on gathering information on competitors and using it to help make sense of the increasingly crowded energy efficiency market.  The internship project is officially titled “Sun Tzu and the Art of War, Beating the Competition at Energy Efficiency,” an indicator of the nerdy flavor of good humor that pervades EnerNOC’s culture.  It’s a good fit for me.  The goal of my project is to better define and enhance EnerNOC’s competitive advantage in the energy efficiency market.  Using the appropriate frameworks to process the competitive information helps ensure that my project will be useful to EnerNOC’s product marketing team as well as the salespeople who face competition directly in the field.  I am gathering data by reading industry reports, researching competing products, talking with experienced EnerNOC employees, and even talking to EnerNOC’s customers who chose between our product and a competitors’.

My first year at Johnson has prepared me well for my work at EnerNOC.  Of particular help was the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) practicum project.  The practicum is a chance for SGE students to participate in a live consulting project during the spring semester.  It’s the perfect warm up for a summer internship, which is basically a 10 week consulting project.  I am also thankful for my Core Marketing and Core Strategy classes, which have given me a working knowledge of product marketing.

I am also making good use of my experiences with the Johnson Energy Club, a student-run club that teaches interested Johnson students about the energy industry.  I first learned about EnerNOC’s MBA internship program at the Johnson Energy Connection. After the JEC, I was able to reach out to a Johnson alumna who works at EnerNOC and we scheduled a “Demand Response 101” session where she spoke to the Energy Club about EnerNOC and the market for demand response.  This meant that by the time I was interviewing for the summer internship position I had already talked with many current employees and was in a good position to land the internship offer.

I am looking forward to the next 5 weeks at EnerNOC and finishing up my engagement there.  I know the experience I have gained this summer will help me with my job search this coming year.

[1] Buildings Energy Data Book, U.S. Department of Energy, http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov, accessed 7/4/12.

[2] "Building Energy Management Systems," Pike Research, Published 1Q 2012.