Earlier this month, Stem announced that Stem and our solar developer partners were awarded 68 MWh in new smart energy storage projects from the California Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) Non-Residential Equity lottery. Included among this group is Stem’s Premier Partner Mynt Systems, a leading provider of energy assessments and construction management services. Together, Stem and Mynt were awarded 5.8 MWh in behind-the-meter solar plus storage projects serving commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, including educational institutions and nonprofits, throughout California.
Recently, I spoke with two of our friends over at Mynt – Robert Hymes, the Chief Development Officer, and Ben Valentine, the Senior Distributed Energy Systems Engineer – to learn about their experience of becoming a Stem Premier Partner. In our conversation, which appears below, Rob and Ben talk about choosing to partner with Stem, integrating energy storage into their offerings, completing Stem University, and working on deals together.
I’m curious about how we began to work together. Why did Mynt Systems first choose Stem?
Rob: I’ve been working with Stem, and trying to work with you, on all kinds of projects for years, maybe going all the way back to Stem’s founding, in 2009. I’ve always been impressed by Stem’s software and your understanding of the actual value proposition for energy storage.
In the early years, Stem played a really important role in explaining energy storage to the market overall, and illustrating value streams like demand charge management. That really helped us, because when customers asked us about energy storage and how it worked, Stem had the best materials we could refer to.
Through the years I’ve always kept in touch, and when Stem pivoted to more of a partner sales model a couple years ago, we were able to find several good opportunities to work together. Stem has access to Tesla batteries, which not all companies do, so you provide the hardware solutions that I want. And Stem’s AthenaTM smart storage software makes you the obvious choice in terms of software and analytics.
What’s it been like to work with Stem so far?
Ben: From an engineering standpoint, we’ve really appreciated the technical support Stem has provided along the way. And I agree with Rob about Stem’s software capabilities. I would also say that Stem’s experience and market share are really important to us. There are so many smaller energy storage providers out there that it’s hard to vet them all, and Stem’s track record really counts for a lot.
Rob: That’s true for our customers as well. Nowadays most people know what storage is, but it’s still a new technology and it’s different from a pure solar play. Being able to tell customers that Stem has over 900 successful deployments really means something to them, and helps with our sales efforts.
One of the requirements for becoming a Stem Premier Partner is completing Stem University. What did you think of Stem University?
Ben: At first I thought it might not be a great use of time, to be honest. But the courses were put together well and had some really valuable material; I have a good understanding of energy storage systems, and I still learned some new things. It’s also been a great training resource for our staff; one of our more junior engineers, who does a lot of system analytics, was able to fill in some gaps in his learning, and some of our other design staff will go through the modules as well. Overall, it exceeded my expectations.
I really like the online format, too. In person training sessions are hard to schedule, especially nowadays. I actually did the first Stem University course while riding on my road bike trainer – just took some notes and kept pedaling!
I teach energy-related courses at a local college near Santa Cruz, and Stem University was even relevant for some of the concepts I teach my students.
Rob: I initially asked Ben and another engineer to look at Stem University, and they have two of the best minds in distributed energy resources (DER), so for them to find Stem University useful is saying something.
Tell me about being a Stem Premier Partner. What advantages does it bring that you wouldn’t typically get from an energy storage provider?
Rob: Having access to Stem’s resources is a huge benefit, as is being able to do business with a partner with such extensive experience and customer support. One of Stem’s engineers recently spent a few hours on the phone with Ben and me, answering our questions about a project we’re looking at together in Northern California. I don’t think we’re likely to get that level of support from just anyone, especially not a company that’s just a battery manufacturer.
Stem’s access to top-quality products and pricing are also really important. Tesla is currently backordered, but I think if anyone will get them, Stem will.
Ben: We do a lot of value engineering, and having a good price list is really important for that. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get a good price list, from all sorts of vendors! Before we became a Premier Partner, we had to get individual quotes for specific projects and configurations from a distributor. Having you guys send over a complete, transparent price list was a huge help and let us do a lot of our own analysis in-house without having to iterate externally.
Rob: Co-marketing with Stem has been great as well. We’re a pretty small company in a big pond, so putting our name next to Stem’s on a press release or blog post that will get thousands of hits is just awesome for us.
From a business standpoint, being able to leverage Stem’s network has also been really helpful. For example, we’re trying to help a school district in Southern California get more value out of a large solar PV system it installed a few years ago with another provider. The financing terms are just terrible – I have no idea how the contract even got signed – but SGIP Equity lottery funds might be enough to at least get them above water. Stem connected us to an investor, and we’re currently exploring financing options that could enable us to make the school district a good offer.
Ben: With some larger companies we work with, it feels like you need to work every connection just to get the right person at the company to respond to you. With Stem it’s not like that at all, and the fact that there are so few examples where we’ve needed someone to help us from the inside is a sign of how great your support has been. We can just pick up the phone and get whatever information we need straight from the source.
Rob: And again, with Stem shifting its business model a couple years ago to partner with companies like us, that made it really easy to work with you and find good projects together.