“My position is that in this space, when you're really getting systemic you need to be connecting all three (Buildings, Utilities, and Policymakers) in ways that we aren't yet. That's where we'll succeed or fail is how we make the right connections across these sectors."
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Episode 80 is a conversation with Colleen Morris, CEO of Calico Energy.
We unpacked the way Colleen and I met, which was through her bold response to one of my essays. Turns out that passion is pretty par for the course for Colleen.
She's taught me a lot about the role utilities have to play in democratizing access to energy consumption data, why today's status quo is unacceptable, and Calico's solution for the problem.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Colleen Morris.
Mentions and Links
- Calico Energy (1:10)
- Nexus Podcast Episode 66 with Cara Carmichael (38:16)
- Utility-Enabled Whole Building Data Access (38:59)
You can find Colleen on LinkedIn.
- Lots of innovation in only two of the three stakeholders (Utility, Policymakers, and Buildings (5:23)
- How we met and unpacking Colleen's quote (9:31)
- All the ways in which utilities make it hard to use utility data (15:29)
- How data access at scale is an energy equity issue (29:43)
- Why scalability is so important in the Long Tail of small buildings (35:03)
- What are the requirements for open access to utility data? (38:59)
Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!
James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.
James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Colleen Morris, CEO of Calico energy. We unpack the way Colleen and I met, which was through her bold response to one of my essays. It turns out that that passion is pretty par for the course for Colleen. She's taught me a lot about the role that utilities have to play in democratizing access to energy consumption data. Why today's status quo is completely unacceptable and Calico solutions to the problem. Without further ado, please enjoy the [00:01:00] nexus podcast with Colleen Morris. welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself?
Colleen Morris: Thanks, James. Uh, sure. I'm calling Morris. The CEO of Calico energy. Calico is a company that has been around for a long time in this space selling services and it work and systems integration to utility companies. We also. Have built a couple different software solutions and, currently were working on scaling a software solution.
That's very focused on a utility enabled access to building energy data, which is of course how you and I have met.
James Dice: Awesome. And you, you have a background as a teacher. I would love for you to talk about how you went from teacher into the buildings industry when it comes
Colleen Morris: here. It's sort of a long and winding road.
Everyone's really inspired by that Beatles documentary that's out right now. So, uh, but I think at a macro level, I am [00:02:00] a sucker for the problems that matter to the world. And sit at the intersection of public policy and private markets and, involve difficult, systemic change. That's the, that's the pattern.
I think that I've lived in retrospect. And for me that looked like, I, I mean, I taught high school and I was headed down the path uh, an academic career in public policy and education policy. I relocated, I did not make a conscious choice to leave that trajectory.
I just moved and it was a period of time when a lot of education systems were laying folks off, it was sort of 2009 ish. And I hopped to corporate based on connections that I had. And spent a chunk of time in a new, complicated, heavily regulated space, which has healthcare and found my way to, software [00:03:00] solutions in the B2B space that are dealing with.
Sort of what I would call a triangle of buyer and user and and product complexity that led me to realize that if I was going to be in this space, I felt most at home in product. And so I moved then as a product owner from that sector to this sector, like five years ago. So it still doesn't make a ton of sense, but that's the sh that's the short version of the story.
The, the slightly longer version or the more detailed version about this space is that I came to Calico as someone. Looking for a market driven sort of future-focused product opportunity and. Looking at the team that we had and the experience that we'd had and what was going on in the market.
I really, over a couple years [00:04:00] of literally Googling every acronym, anyone said on a phone call cause I was frantically catching up. That was what it was like for me, for awhile. Uh, I have focused on what I would call sort of a three circle Venn diagram here, which is where Calico lifts and it's utilities and.
Lovely heavily regulated rate case driven market, which is a unique, complicated thing and buildings, which is how you and I have connected and where your expertise. And I think probably many of your listeners are really focused and the vendors that serve them and the consultants that serve the owners, and then there's this other commercial real estate industry that sits also in that trifecta.
My current, market complicated place where I believe there's an intersection of public policy, profit driven, private markets and mandated systemic change in this case because of the [00:05:00] climate is where we live now in Calico sort of sits in those three circles. So. That's my connection back to how a high school teacher ended up here for
James Dice: high school teaching to software to solving climate change.
So I love the Venn diagram vision. Can you talk about how. Yeah, before we hit record, you said a lot of innovation in the spaces, the three spaces are maybe bridging two of those, but not all three. Can you talk about what you mean?
Colleen Morris: I think that the hardest stuff, which means it's the sort of places where you really.
I can find the way to succeed or the thing that made you fail, it's, it happens where like industries touch, I think the analogy I mentioned was in an org chart, the messiest stuff in a, in a [00:06:00] company growing a business is where ownership is ambiguous and process changes hands and those things.
Right. So in, in those three circles, I think that policy and legislation is absolutely starting to look at buildings, and there are lots of evolving, meaningful things going on there where those two circles connect, at the same time, there's a whole other troop of regulators and policy makers who are talking to utilities.
And. Mandating lots of change. And you know, utilities are deploying some of their most innovative programs when they are looking at the CNI buildings that they serve, and how they can help them. Utilities have significant energy efficiency functions. My position is that in this space, when you're really getting systemic We need to be connecting all three of those in ways that we aren't yet, the conversation is starting to over the last two years, I [00:07:00] think most people in this arena now know what, what Gibbs are, that was an acronym that wasn't really on the table, or at least in like mainstream conversation, and I would argue that that's an example of something that really does sit in the. Yeah. It kinda, it kinda has to there's the building and the grid, and then the folks who are going to pull legislative and policy levers to help catalyze those things. And so I think, that Calico and so many other folks and organizations who are trying to drive change.
That's that's where we'll succeed or fail is kind of how we make the right connections across these sectors. It's my sort of pet theory.
James Dice: Fascinating. It reminds me of the three pillars or the three circles of the Venn diagram, whatever you want to call it. It reminds me of someone emailed me recently and told me about what they're hearing on the ground in New York city.
Regarding local on 97 and how the real estate world is pretty upset that they, they feel like they weren't included, [00:08:00] uh, in that policy. And they ended up just passing costs on the tenants. And there's still an open loop there. It doesn't feel like the business side of all those buildings that got regulated was really taken into account.
Is that, is that a good example?
Colleen Morris: I think so. I also think that, you know, if we acknowledged the evolution of these policy levers, 97 is a profoundly impactful piece of policy that is driving real change. And is the first example of financially quantifying carbon, really on the ground or in the buildings.
But but I think. On one hand, we could talk all day about bringing all the right people together and getting the right consensus and having everyone agree on what should happen and not get anything done. And on the other hand, in examples like that, when we pull a lever. And we hear that and we see those real ramifications.
The last thing anyone wants is tenants [00:09:00] to be driven out of 80 year old apartment buildings because their rent triples, because the HVAC had to be upgraded and the owner's not going to take the hit for that. Right. So, I think there has to be a feedback loop and you see that in the other policies in this arena, like many cities and states who are passing policies that are targets.
Energy and buildings in a variety of ways have learned a ton from 10 years ago, and the first iterations of those laws.
James Dice: Totally. let's dive in. I want to talk about. Broadly and then zoom into what you guys do. So when you and I first met, it was through a reply to an essay essay that I wrote.
Uh, and I didn't see it right away. It was like a couple months later, I was like going through my spam folder and here's this like borderline rant from Colleen. So when I was putting out this outline for this podcast, I like went back, like search my inbox. Where's that email from Colleen. So let me. Give everyone the quote, [00:10:00] you said all the cool, important shit.
I'm just going to say shit that starting to happen really matters. And it was really valuable. And you were talking about all the nerdy tech stuff that I read about, but none of it will touch the energy footprint at buildings at scale, without mainstream access to building level data first. And that emphasize that has to come from utilities.
So, first of all, Boltwood introduce yourself,
but I just want to thank you because it's opened my eyes to something in this marketplace that I think I'm an expert in that you pointed me out pointed out to me. Here's this piece you're missing. And I feel like you're doing that a lot with people. I'm sure you're on. Wait a second. You're missing this.
So let's, let's start at the beginning. Why is utility data. Important. And that's a very beginner level question, but just set the context for the discussion.
Colleen Morris: Sure. The simplest answer to your question is, to [00:11:00] first say we could reframe it a little and just say, why do you need a baseline?
Right. And I could ask you that and you could do a better job answering than I would. Right. But ultimately everyone knows you're not going to manage. Whether you're going to value it, reduce it, resell it, whatever cool shit you're going to do. You're not doing anything. If you don't know how much it is first.
Right. So like great. That's a cliche for a reason. I would argue. That nothing happens. You had your pyramid where utility data's at the bottom. Right? I also think of this problem in sort of a funnel view where, if you think of a typical sales, it's like we're going to spit out as many existing buildings that have been made more efficient as possible.
We have to flood the top baseline data. Is it. Somewhat deliberately provocative email to you. What was written that way because where [00:12:00] Calico sits and where I personally get pretty fired up is, is the word at-scale or the phrase that scale, if it makes financial sense for someone to spend some money, instrumenting a building, to collect their data, to reduce building level consumption, they're doing that.
They've already done it. Well, we still have a, uh, a sector consuming, 40% of the energy we consume in this country and we need to shrink the number. And so, there's kind of like the market driven solutions that are underway, many incredibly poignant and impactful vendors and providers, and, a lot of the people that you talk to are doing everything right in this space, my issue, and, and the point that I do end up making all the time is that it matters.
But you know, we, we have to scale. And the only way to scale it is to get ahold of the data that already exists and fits and [00:13:00] utilities. Where else are you going to find historical data years of historical data for buildings? You could instrument anything you want starting tomorrow, and we are not going to solve this problem fast enough that way.
So there's no. This is my whole sort of systemic piece of my brain saying this has to happen, has to be possible because we will not succeed if we don't do it. If we don't get data from utilities for toast, it's not gonna work.
James Dice: And the pyramid you're talking about is the energy management hierarchy of needs framework that I've developed.
And I have a rant about this. So I had developed that framework two years ago, whatever, when I was at Enrail, I have a consulting client who will remain nameless that I walked them through that in very painstaking detail. Giving them examples of, uh, software that sits at each layer of the pyramid and the capabilities of it and the [00:14:00] different vendors in that category.
And then I walked them through like the energy management process, how you start with benchmarking, like you said, collect data, you benchmark. Now you go into all the high-performing buildings in the portfolio and are low performing high users. Right. And you develop out energy conservation measures.
Manage that procure that, verify that track that over time. It's a pretty simple linear process. When you think about it. But you have to realize that the first half of that, at least the first half of that process is all using utility data, right? The entire thing. And the first thing this client does, they're a software company.
They come to me and they show me their product roadmap and it begins with metered. Interval data from the building automation system. And I was just like, like, we've learned nothing here. I had this huge shit fit that I through. [00:15:00] Yeah, yeah, exactly. I was just like, that was the entire whole point of like four hours of us having conversations anyway.
Uh, that's my rant. I think that the whole industry needs to understand it is that. We talking about ESG, it's like a good, a good example, ESG, like literally the first half of the journey is just what utility data do we have? What, what buildings are using, what how's that compare to our target? How can we reduce them?
What's our plan. Like all of that is all just, it doesn't have anything to do with IOT. It's all just like simple. What is our utility bill say about what our building uses? Right. And so I guess maybe the next question is let's contrast that the importance of that, right? All these buildings have to get to net zero carbon by X date, given that the first half of the process and to do so relies on your utility data, what are all the ways in which utilities make that, that difficult, [00:16:00] getting that utility data?
Colleen Morris: So there's a really important point here. That I will say that in much like your experience with that pyramid, it does feel like it usually has to be heard multiple times for the sort of light bulb to really click. And it's that there's a perception. And I think for valid reasons, utilities do not have a reputation of being particularly.
Transparent or enabling, prolific and easy access to machine readable data. Like there are really valid issues around individual account holders, arguably not having great access to, simple visualizations, any kind of downloadable interval data, rate pairs paid for these deployments.
And there's been a lot of coverage over that in the last couple of years. That's all true. It's valid, but I think it's really critical that in the building [00:17:00] sector, everybody understand that whatever's happening with account-based data, which is one or two or 10 meters equal in account.
If a bill gets mailed by a utility to someone who pays the bill, It could all be made better, but there is a bill, there is some amount of quantifiable KWH that someone's paying something for. So, maybe you've got to type it in yourself to do anything with it, but you have some thing to reference what we're talking about.
When we talk about building level data from utilities, they don't have building level data. So, the utility business model. Is meters that track volume, that map to bills, which gets sent to customers, so to a utility. And that's not because someone made a dumb choice it's because this is, uh, decades upon decades, old [00:18:00] industry with the systems that are built, the way they're built and, utilities have a customer information management system that says, who pays the bills and how you mail the bills to them.
And has it like an account ID. And then there are meters, know, that live over here that exists somewhere that may or may not have GIS data, which may or may not be the middle of the street. Certainly isn't a building, and then there's like a billing system that has rates and riders and incentives in it.
And this information gets brought together and put on a bill. The thing is, the news is worse for building level data because. That isn't a part of any of those models,
James Dice: utilities,
Colleen Morris: nothing that says nothing. There's no building ID. And of course, New York and, you know, Conda is one place where they have gone the furthest that I'm aware of.
Really anything about that, but some of the local drivers there have [00:19:00] resulted in folks who operate in New York, having to be able to identify buildings elsewhere. That's still. Very nascent reality. And, and I don't believe that, it's just a willingness problem. And I think that's, if there's, one really key learning here, I've heard many people who are very close to this problem say, you know, will they have the data?
They just have to provide it. I'm going to say it time for the people in the back. Utilities do not have a building level identifier that maps to meet our needs. You know now, can they extrapolate that? Can they look at it? Is it doable? Of course, that's why we're on the phone. That's what we're talking about.
It's doable and it needs to be something that we make happen. But I also just think that, in this case, we, we, they deserve a, some amount of understanding that this is a really hard thing to do. It's not just flip a switch and make a report. So this reminds
James Dice: me [00:20:00] of in the building's world.
In the eighties when control systems were invented, right? You could give the people who didn't build them in a way to integrate with them. You could give them a hall pass because the system was never intended to share data with anything else. Right. So they didn't build it. Didn't make any architecture decisions throughout the entire architecture in a way that would be useful today for this.
Colleen Morris: And there are, there may be some utility data experts who are hearing me talk, who say, well, they have premises, and they do. And they have, there are ways that utilities map meters to where the meter sits and how the meter interacts with the grid. But the key point is.
Buildings do not have a sort of aggregated identifier and building systems.
James Dice: So for those people in the back, what we just talked about was the entire first half of the energy management process [00:21:00] or energy reduction, carbon reduction, carbon removal, carbon mitigation, entire first half requires figuring out for a building.
What energy it consumes per square foot, and then making a plan to do something about that. And that utilities do not have that information.
Colleen Morris: They definitely don't have that information.
James Dice: So what happens today as a result? And I I'm, I spent nine years plus actually doing this side. I know.
Colleen Morris: No, that's your, uh, your, your painful color commentary, baby.
I'm going to guess, but yeah. Well, let me see if I, if I, if I get it right, you tell me. So if you go ask a utility for data, for XYZ building today, like a few different things happen, one is they just say, we can't give it to you.
Well, no, the building level access, like if you go say, can I have data [00:22:00] for this 25 residential unit for commercial, ground level, this mixed use building on the corner of X and Y streets. And in, in many places, if you go ask a utility for data, for a building, they'll just say no, like it's not a thing in other places.
They'll say log into your customer portal and you can download it and you'll say well, but I only pay the bill for the elevator bay and the lobby. What about the rest of the building? And then they'll say, oh, Tell us the other meters and maybe we can add it up and give it to you. And then you'll try to go look in a basement or a closet, and maybe you'll identify a few and completely miss something or not.
Or you won't even know because. You are a property manager, not a building technologist or an engineer. you know, They may give you some mechanism or [00:23:00] steps that you can take probably to give them more information. And then someone will manually, flatten individual account data. Probably at best, monthly billing data or monthly and maybe email you a spreadsheet and in, in the best cases, and I would argue this isn't great, but in the best cases, there's probably some type of like formalized process or, form based mechanism or, maybe even a way that you can use a tool where you enter all the meter numbers for your building.
And, then they'll give you data. And again, in, a small percentage of utility implementations, they might take another step, which is like help you buy a shipping that data to portfolio manager, energy stars, tool and Lincoln to an account that you have to be clear, That last piece is, is like the best case situation where, you can get a spreadsheet sent to [00:24:00] you are downloaded and linked.
It's more common that it's not an option and there's no great mechanism. And if you find the right helpful person or you yourself, or a large enough CNI customer to utility, you own multiple buildings and. R, I don't know a JLL of the world. So you have floors on those buildings. It's like if you, if you are considered to be a large account, then you're more likely to find your way to someone in it and reporting who, who will do what they can to help you.
But those processes are usually fairly manual. And I think one other way to kind of illustrate that reality is. Just another kind of insight on the utility business model side of things. If you call utility at the very beginning of most of their sort of support and phone, tree realities, they are sort of mapping you as either a residential customer or a commercial [00:25:00] customer.
What if you are the building owner of a mixed use structure?
James Dice: Yeah.
Colleen Morris: And like that use case kind of highlights the way that utilities are set up and all of their functions are owned and their energy efficiency programs are managed. It, this, this notion of buildings as like a messy, different dimension.
It's just a little below the fold. So
James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor Nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the email@example.com lab. Start online. All right, [00:26:00] back to the interview
Colleen Morris: yeah,
James Dice: my, my experience was as a third party. Consultant to the building owner. Right? So, uh, my client who I often don't want to overburden, right. Because I'm trying to help them along with something that they're is not their core business. Right. They don't have time to do this thing that I'm asking them to do.
Uh, I'm often trying to sell my services as well. Right. So oftentimes, uh, people like me in the past, they just give away this entire first part of the, the effort. Right. We'll do the benchmarking for you for free, and then tell you what your opportunity is. So a lot of times a company like me, like mine would have been working on their own.
Coin, uh, and this process and basically going on a wild goose chase owner gives you bills. You go to the utility and try to get historical data. We put it in a spreadsheet, benchmarking spreadsheet or [00:27:00] workbook to then try to figure out, do we have dislike first step? Do we have all of the accounts or is this data unrealistically low or high?
Right. So there's this like this like six. Tax on projects that I would always have. Uh, and so that was my, my experience is this you're, you're throwing an engineer at the problem because they're the ones that need to go figure out. How to get the data and whether it's useful or not. So that's the, that's the reality.
And so I guess, as we think about like scaling up carbon reduction, like obviously this situation is not scalable. It's also important to know, like the people like me that are being thrown at this problem, they're being thrown at the top 2% of billings.
Colleen Morris: that's what I would say about the scalability, right?
Like for starters, if buildings can't get their data, it's, a non-starter again, bottom of your [00:28:00] pyramid, top of the project funnel. However you want to think about it. So. It's not scalable because it just isn't enough buildings, the, those that will instrument or even pay a consultant like yourself, because there's enough op ex return for them in the reduction or in, you know, that you analyze five buildings, you do one project it's worth it.
What about all the other buildings that aren't spending money on that? That's, this is a, this is where the market reality comes into play. Right. You have to be realistic about the segment of buildings that we are doing well with today and the segments of buildings that we are not. And, and I would argue that the only way to do better with the other buildings that everybody else, I mean, it wasn't, there was like 130 million buildings in this country.
86 million of them are single family. I mean, I, you hear five, six, 7 million [00:29:00] tossed around in terms of like this big slice, but there are so many in that sort of segment that I know you and I have talked about where you're starting to kind of reach down. The policies that were passed 10, 15 years ago were a hundred, a hundred thousand square feet.
And up right now, we're getting down to 25, 35, 10,000 square foot for public buildings. Like. The floor is moving and it's going to have to, and I would say that the financial market realities for many of the rest of that population mean that the only way that those buildings baseline is with utility data.
James Dice: Yeah. I threw this out last week to someone when just the middle of a conversation, because that's the power of having CBX data. But 2%, if we're, if we're only going to target buildings that are over 100,000 square feet at is 2% of the commercial buildings in the United States. [00:30:00]
Colleen Morris: And let's extrapolate that backwards to those 40% numbers and forwards to the, the potential in the gap.
And which buildings we really have to be able to include, you know, and where arguably some of the highest ROI or lowest hanging fruit work is, like where is the best return at this point? there's plenty of needle to move everywhere, but you know, five years from now, like we can't keep ignoring all of these, 20 tenant brick buildings that are.
Leaking like a sieve all winter long. that's a major equity issue, which is where this starts to go. It's another place for me,
James Dice: yeah. And maybe if you could expand upon that, what do you, what do you mean it's a major equity issue?
Colleen Morris: If we acknowledge the work that's being done in the buildings that it's being done in, and the reasons that people invest in that work, any reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions is great, but like, let's [00:31:00] be real.
A lot of that is market driven. You're reducing the cost and increasing the value of the significant assets. Great. Keep doing it. But there's, there's a whole reality where, historically disadvantaged populations of a variety of kinds are dealing with, major energy and equity spending far more of their income on their energy bills, struggling to keep the power bills paid making choices.
You and I are, are privileged not to have to make about paying electricity and buying food. And I think that when you talk about scaling solutions and thinking through the data we have and making sure that it's being used and put in the hands of, folks who are doing the right kind of analysis and connecting the dots between public and private money that is being pointed at solving this problem and unprecedented.
Volumes in the last few years, we need to make sure that that money is, is being [00:32:00] spent on these issues. So that that's equitable solutions to, so it's, it's not just, there are just so many layers to this, you know, I think that if we're realistic about targeting.
Dozens of buildings with the money that's waiting to be invested, the only way that we're going to identify and target those buildings is if we are unlocking and leveraging data that, has historically been harder to get ahold of. And I think we all really need to pay attention to that.
And I think that's where some of the policy side of things come into play. There are people doing great work on how to incorporate an equity lens into energy policy. And that's part of what that bubble's doing, and that needs to start connecting back to the utility bubble and back to the building sector bubble.
And, as folks like yourself in a previous life or reaching further down and square footage, what does that, what does that mean? Like how can that circle. Put their [00:33:00] finger on the scale, and ask for this data or, push for solutions that enable them to do projects everywhere.
James Dice: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think a lot of people in this audience have, because I've pulled them, uh, missions around like career missions around, uh, fighting climate change. But there are others that are like career missions around creating a certain experience or ventilating a space, uh, giving people proper indoor air quality human health.
And I think it's important to point out that you're often talking about this industry. Is often talking about a very, very small set of the actual human beings in this country. If you're talking about class a office space and producing a certain experience, right. You're talking about a very small amount of people
Colleen Morris: you are.
And then, I also think just on that point, there's some other interesting data here. That we [00:34:00] have, of the. Tens of thousands of buildings that we have sort of helped enable access to. Only about a quarter of those are like a single tenant commercial space. The other three quarters are some type of multi-tenant structure.
Over half of them have at least one residential customer. So, even if you're thinking like in, in your world, you call it a building, a commercial building, even when it has, dozens of residential customers in it. And there's a little bit of a, a semantic disconnect there between like the utility view of the world, which is those are residential customers.
So utilities are like learning that buildings break their model. And at the same time, I think that, when we're talking about how all these worlds overlap and blur there are many, many buildings that are subject to these ordinances, particularly relatively [00:35:00] recently where it is a myth.
James Dice: Totally. So why is the answer? Not just benchmarking ordinances everywhere?
Colleen Morris: I wouldn't be upset if that happened.
I mean, I think, uh, a couple, a couple of things. One is that. As we acknowledged at the beginning of this call, as you learn what works and what happens when you push this lever, pull this lever, push this button. The ordinance is themselves, the policies are evolving and learning.
over time, like 15 years ago, a progressive building focused energy policy was you have to benchmark give us your data. You get a gold star. Great. There was no enforcement if you didn't and it didn't matter what the data looks. If someone hired you, you would look at it and say, that makes no sense for a building this size and probably go back and keep, you know, fighting with a utility or your own BMS or whatever you're doing.
But you know, then there was kind of this next iteration of policy where there was some [00:36:00] amount of consequence or, a mandate, but it still wasn't really enforced, and then. When California passed aviator to, to my knowledge, they were one of the first that actually like address the utility that PA that was, uh, uh, evidence of the policymakers learning, because what happened is they passed all these policies that were targeting building owners and operators, and then they went and asked for data and said, we can't get it.
So then policymakers learned, we have to, in the process of legislating tell utilities that they have to provide the. Okay, great. The last two years worth of policies have for the most part incorporated some utility facing language. They have also evolved. And I think in your conversation with Cara, you guys were talking about this.
It's no longer just give us your data, check the box, you get a gold star. Like now it's use this data baseline, we're layering on or, expanding, uh, the sort of Russian doll analogy. If you want, where I tell people, benchmarking isn't [00:37:00] gone, it's just like rolled into something bigger when you pass it back.
You still need the baseline Washington's 1257, uh, use this explicitly uses utility data for baseline and M and V and utility mechanisms for energy efficiency work when deemed necessary. That's all part of how it was designed. So, what I would say is I do think building focus, energy policies.
R one of the most powerful things that that one circle can do. And I think it should keep doing it. That circle. It's doing a great job, and the smarter the policies get the further they'll drive change faster. At the same time, there are then like operational realities where people go ask utilities for their data.
The more people who do that driven by policies. The faster utility is, will adapt to the fact that this data not only is being requested, but that the accuracy of it [00:38:00] matters now. And that is different than it used to be in the places where those policies have accuracy issues attached or, sort of accuracy expectations.
It's no longer enough to tick a box.
James Dice: And you mentioned care, that's Cara Carmichael. We'll link to that episode in the show notes, you mentioned BEPS that's I call out on this too last week, said Babson, the sentence. And people were like, no, we can't use that in a sentence. What is that?
Colleen Morris: Building Energy Performance Standards.
So instead of just saying gold star, you measured. Now we're saying not a gold star, you measured it and your building sucks. So you gotta make it better. I think it's, it's clear how different that is in terms of the policy.
James Dice: All right. I was about to say let's get into the weeds, but I feel like we've been in the weeds pretty much the entire time here.
Um, What do you guys do? [00:39:00] And as a caveat to that question, you're obviously targeting the problem we've been talking about here. There's a caveat to that question. Like, what are the outcomes you're trying to enable? Like, what are the requirements for open data access that would sort of unlock all of this?
Colleen Morris: So, the highest level answer to your question is like Calico's mission is to enable access to building level data.
I would just reference back to earlier in the dialogue when we said, sometimes in some cases getting account level data is a challenge. That's a challenge worth addressing. And there are folks who are hyper-focused on it and should be, and we are totally on the same team.
We are trying to. Make sure that buildings don't get lost in the mix. It's not just about bill presented. It's not just about downloading my data, and green button connect is a great example of, data access and actionable data access and, the, the sort of press coverage of [00:40:00] interval data, and how people in many places where those meters have been deployed for years still can't get it.
But that's all true. Calico integrates with utilities. That customer system I mentioned has a bunch of data that lives the way it lives in the meter system has data that lives the way it lives. We deploy a software solution that integrates with utilities and sort of accepts their data set as it exists.
We then are a software solution. W our primary user is you in a previous life, the building owner, operator manager, the vendor, serving them, whoever they have, delegated to try to do something that starts with. Measuring the building, and so instead of going to a utility and begging, or calling in a favor and finding an account exact or whatever you would use a white labeled deployment of our software to request data, sort of create a building, tell [00:41:00] us and the utility, by the way, cause there's a, there's a subtext here cause there's a lot in it for utilities, tell the solution, tell the software.
Basic information about the utility. I'm sorry about your building. And we solve that problem. And one of the things I say to the utilities that we serve and sell to is you don't know how big this building is. You don't know if it has 20 units or 200 that's okay. You don't need to know. And like, you shouldn't really be in the business of guessing.
Like put the people who know the building and know what makes sense roughly for its consumption in a position of, of, of empowerment, like enable them with a solution that helps everybody involved, know that the data they're getting is accurate. So that's where our tool sits. You would be a user of our tool.
James Dice: Yeah, your customer would be the utility. You would white label it for them. So it [00:42:00] looked like their software. Yeah. Okay. So you mentioned it, how what's, what's the paradigm shift here for the utility. So they might think, oh, the value of your software is I'm just trying to get all these gnats off my back.
Right. I'm just trying to get these people to stop bothering me about it.
Colleen Morris: Please, please I'll pay you. Yeah,
James Dice: but that, that feels to me like the old utility paradigm, which is I'm trying to push electrons. I don't really care what, what else happens, but there's a new paradigm. Right. What's what's the new paradigm.
And why would they want your software in the, in the new paradigm?
Colleen Morris: Let's, let's go back to Gabs, right? Or they're a Durham strategy for utility distributed energy resource management. Some of what you have been talking to folks about on your show are these big macro level solutions where you tell it, these are totally. Not just like witness to all of this and sort of a [00:43:00] stakeholder, but they are like in the game, who's on the other side of the grid that the buildings interacting with.
Right. And so, we can talk about different RTOs, but anyway I, I believe that. And it's not just a, a pet theory. What we're seeing is that as utilities look at some of these more advanced energy management strategies, they're realizing that so much that can be done in terms of those new approaches is building level.
So, once a utility knows has access to these are the meters that equal ability. They themselves can be one of the biggest and best, and most productive consumers of that mapping utilities are the only people in this game who have a legal right to see that aggregated data set and the individual account holder dataset.
The very best thing you were ever going to get given [00:44:00] was building level. And yes, there are mechanisms for getting tenant cassette consent. And in some cases you have to get tenant consent to get any data. But what's happening is utilities are realizing. And some of those that we work with are realizing that, this list, this sortable list of the buildings they serve, where you know, which, which ones, which are the worst offenders, let's sort this by UI energy use intensity, right?
Like. Looks like those would be the best to target for next year's energy efficiency programs. You know, That's, that's a low hanging very obvious way that this benefits utilities too. And, and I do believe that that sector is seeing that. And, and then I think if you look towards the future and you talk about grid interactive, efficient buildings, which of course is the gap and you talk about issues of grid resilience.
Buildings are a very big lever, but not if it doesn't exist, not if [00:45:00] which, which meters are we asking to? you talk about demand, flexibility, and all of the sort of evolution of demand response, and, behind the meter, any of those things buildings there, a dimension that.
Very relevant. They're very relevant to that and they're relevant to utilities too. So I, I do feel like this is heading in your sort of vision trajectory sort of, direction, but I think that utilities will be one of the biggest and best consumers of building level views as we move forward. I think they have to be
James Dice: right.
And w where does it go for them beyond building data? is that what you meant by, like, they're going to start to wonder. By building being able to then target them for energy, like sort them into their different energy efficiency programs, figure out which ones are having success. And which ones are those types of analysis?
Colleen Morris: Absolutely. [00:46:00] I th I, I guess, utilities have, as we mentioned really robust energy efficiency, groups and programs, you, again, as a consultant, part of what you were doing was matchmaking, right? Like, is it a utility program, utility money, you know what makes sense? And I think, that's happening.
It's not to say that utilities aren't spending dollars on building level work, but they're doing everything that they're doing for the most part everywhere today, without a good, easy view of the buildings in their territory. So, imagine how much better the targeting could be. I I think, and this is I'm jumping the gun here in terms of bold prediction. Is that okay? Am I allowed to do that? Okay. So I think that utilities should be able and will be able to take, the, these meters equal a building. And, and what I believe is that we're not just talking about, historical billing data that once, the meters that equal a building, there's absolutely no reason why we aren't just aggregating interval data and, cleaning up a lot of the integration.[00:47:00]
Handshakes and data passing realities and utilities become a source for not just useful historical baselining data, but you know, more and more recent interval data at the building level. I still think that everybody who's selling solutions that do that and integrating all of that, but I I've listened to many of your conversations, uh, sort of the different versions of how do we mothership this day.
Yeah, I have to imagine a world where interval data at the building level from utilities is a part of what ends up in that mothership.
James Dice: it has great. From from, from the engineer's side of things. That's another, that's another piece of the tax, right? So there's the initial tax that I'm trying to benchmark when I'm doing work that in 2021, I shouldn't have to do.
And then there's the. Okay. Now we need a little bit more [00:48:00] granular insights tax. So now we need to go install meters and pay a SAS fee for those meters and make sure they're accurate and all that, right. When the utility has that data for the most part already. Right. And if you try to get them from, get it from them today, it's two months behind and it's got gaps in it and it's, you know, no
Colleen Morris: idea what.
There, there is, uh, a long, another long and winding road of, where that data comes from and who it goes through and how utilities get it. And, but my point is, I think we should aspire to do better than last year's billing data in February.
And even that is a coup in many cases. Right. I think we can do better.
James Dice: We can, we can definitely do better. All right. Any more bold predictions before we move on?
Colleen Morris: No, I already touched on like the evolution that I see in the policy. Right. It really is. Cities and states are leading on leading on this and that's [00:49:00] not because the federal government doesn't want to. That's just the reality of how all these levers interact, and I think things like new York's 97 and Washington's 1257, they really are that kind of next generation.
And I think that a lot of the policies that are in discussion right now are looking to sort of that next, you know, so the, the one other bullet prediction I would make is that what we've seen measured in, in the data we pay attention to is that building focused energy policies are doubling in just pure count year, over year.
And, and that's something that's been going on for a long time, but at the beginning it was one to two to four, we're getting up there. We're like at like 80. So I mean, my other bold prediction would be that, you know what, that looks like two years from now. It that's pretty big.[00:50:00] That exponential reality gets pretty impactful.
Looking forward to seeing how those continue to unfold.
James Dice: Yeah. Well it not like the utility people listen to this podcast, but if they did, they would know
good. You should go
Colleen Morris: show well, and utilities are full of good people who are, doing absolutely everything they can from the seats there. No, they are by no means the enemy in this, in this thing. But I think we all need to understand the operational challenges and the limitations to really get the opportunity of solving that.
Like what if, call me naive, but maybe also a little idealistic
James Dice: that's all right. I feel like that around here. All right. Cool. Two truths and a lie. Are you ready?
Colleen Morris: I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be.
Okay. I do [00:51:00] not have an Evie that's number one, I live in a gutted Victorian home.
James Dice: What do you mean by gutted?
Colleen Morris: Gutted of like demoed. Uh, and I grew up on a horse farm.
Uh, I put that in there so we could talk really briefly about the, the really fun process of electrifying 170 year old Victorian home. Cause that's what I'm doing right now,
James Dice: thrown off by the gutted gutted. And it hasn't been put back together.
Colleen Morris: Yeah, it's got it. Like I literally live in a house. Uh, they're actually putting cellulose in the walls today, but I live in a.
Home that we bought a while ago and are currently putting back together. So, yeah, with two toddlers and a couple of dogs, it's really an adventure.
James Dice: Oh, that's awesome. I [00:52:00] would like to electrify my home to
Colleen Morris: we're working on it. It's going to be a transitional process, but if we're getting there, I'm excited to get that. I don't think I'm going to have to refill the oil tank after we use what we currently have. So that's. All
James Dice: right. Well, congrats on that.
Colleen Morris: Which one's the lie? I did not grow up on a horse farm. I had horses, but I didn't grow up on a horse,
James Dice: man. That was a tough one. Good job.
Colleen Morris: That was trying to be tricky.
James Dice: All right. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Appreciate
Colleen Morris: it. Thanks James. Talk soon.
James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.