Earlier this month, Stem announced a partnership with Greenskies Clean Energy / Clean Focus, two wholly-owned subsidiaries of JLC Infrastructure which together have constructed and operate over 270 MW of C&I solar projects throughout the country. The developer group focuses heavily on the commercial space and large multinational enterprises, as well as smaller, regional corporations. In 2019, it was ranked #1 by Solar Power World for cumulative commercial installations.
Recently, I spoke with two of our friends over at Greenskies — Steven Liu, the VP of Engineering and Procurement, and Jeff Hintzke, VP of Policy and New Markets — to learn about their experience becoming a Stem Premier Partner. In the transcripted conversation below, Steven and Jeff talk about choosing to partner with Stem, integrating energy storage into their offerings, completing Stem University, and working on deals together.
Christy: Thanks for taking the time to talk about your experience with Stem! To start off, can you tell me about why Greenskies began working with Stem in the first place?
Steven: Our organization knows all the in’s and out’s of renewables development, but energy storage was something new for us. We knew it would add value to our projects, especially in the Northeast and California where incentives are rich. So we sought to identify the industry leader in the commercial energy storage space and partner with them.
In the process of talking with different storage providers, we narrowed our evaluation criteria to look at 1) Demonstrated experience and 2) Real-world verification of controls algorithms.
When evaluating who was the most experienced in selling and deploying storage systems, we found that Stem’s experience was unmatched. Stem did a good job of showing me that they were the market leaders. In California, the biggest market for energy storage, they had 3X more SGIP deployments than their next biggest competitor.
When evaluating our second criteria, real-world verification of controls algorithms, we found that everyone in this space likes to talk about their genius software and how great it is. But the rubber meets the road when you have hundreds of systems in the ground and millions of operating hours. I don’t think people realize how far in the lead Stem has become in this regard. They were the first in the space, and they kept the pedal to the metal ever since. Not only does Stem’s software Athena operate many more projects than competing providers, but they also have proof that it works. Stem showed us how they’ve exceeded customers’ savings expectations in many cases, and how customers have come back to add more sites. In both demonstrated experience and real-world verification of controls algorithms, Stem stood out far ahead of competitors.
Jeff: Stem’s leadership is evident not just in the number of projects and in the effectiveness of their software, but at every level of developing a project: from the expertise Stem has demonstrated with performing analyses and pro formas, to having all the necessary marketing materials, to the sales support provided when working with customers, to interconnection, design, permitting, and commissioning.
Christy: What’s your experience working with Stem been like so far?
Steven: It’s been great from the beginning. We bring projects and opportunities to each other, and co-develop them to get them across the finish line. In that sense, it’s a true partnership. We worked together to get customers comfortable, show that we can be flexible with adjusting parameters, make adjustments to contracts, and before we knew it we had 5 MWh booked and had become a Premier Partner.
As a Premier Partner, I have felt that whiteglove service experience that comes with having a dedicated support representative that’s with me at every stage. Stem provides a lot of dedicated resources to help us win deals and execute. When we’re designing systems, I’ve got one if not two or three engineers and technical folks from Stem on the calls with me as we go through designs and talk about product intricacies. For incentive applications, which are really difficult for storage compared to solar, Stem provides us with templates that have pre-crafted language and pre-approved equipment. This turned what would have been a difficult process into something that became really easy. Same thing for interconnection, which is also a really different process than what we are used to when interconnecting solar. Stem walked us through the whole process every step of the way and saved us a lot of time.
Christy: Part of the requirements for becoming a Stem Premier Partner involve completing Stem University. What did you think of Stem University?
Jeff: Going through the Stem University modules on sales, sales analytics, and deployment was seamless and easy. It’s a slick thing Stem has developed, I can tell you’ve put a good investment in it.
Steven: The value of Stem University is that we can educate our team on everything they need to know to manage projects that include energy storage. I’ve been working with battery storage for 3 to 4 years, and it’s taken me a long time to grasp all the in’s and out’s of this market, the technology, and the processes. A lot of people on our team don’t have that amount of experience with storage, and Stem U really helps bring them up to speed and gain the same amount of knowledge I have in just a few days instead of a few years!
It was a relief that we could send out a link to entire departments at our company and know that they now have a way to build a really strong foundation in storage, and don’t have to go through all the self education.
Christy: What advantages does the Stem Premier Partnership bring that you would not get from a typical battery supplier?
Steven: That whiteglove service that we get through the Stem partnership helps us win new business.
On top of that, Stem does a good job offering a ton of different flexible product offerings and they can customize functionality depending on what you need from the project, and whether it’s for small commercial, a large enterprise, or a utility. They really focus on being able to access every possible value stream across every market, whether that’s wholesale market participation, traditional peak shaving, backup power, demand response, incentive compliance, or frequency regulation. They give you the ability to mix and match that stuff, and with their software Athena you know you are getting the maximum possible value out of all available revenue streams.
This came into play recently with a major enterprise deal we worked on together, where at the last minute, the customer came to us and said they wanted to have greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, and in order to do that, we had to offer backup to offset diesel generation. We were able to integrate backup capabilities with the existing utility bill optimization contract, and they made it happen quickly so the deal was able to move forward to close. That kind of flexibility really helps us win deals, and it’s a huge benefit of partnering with Stem.