Energy Management Collaborative

Energy Management Collaborative

EMC at a glance

Founded: 2003

Revenue: $60 million (2014)

Employees: 50

Growth fact: In 2009, EMC posted $6.8 million in revenue; between 2012 and 2014, its revenue grew from $26 million to $60 million.

A Spotlight on Lighting

EMC was founded in 2003 by James Beck, a veteran entrepreneur in the energy sector. (That same year, Beck also founded Minneapolis-based IntePro Inc., which develops software to help small businesses with training, risk assessment and policy management for information security and compliance management.) EMC initially focused on many kinds of conservation, including gas and water. Beck asked Jerry Johnson to evaluate the different areas; Johnson thought energy-efficient lighting had the most potential. Johnson soon became a partner in the company; toward the end of 2003, he became its CEO.

EMC customers have conserved more than 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy, the equivalent of shutting off the Black Dog coal plant in Burnsville for more than six months.

Kilowatt hours saved annually in Minnesota: 10.4 million.

Total kilowatt hours saved in Minnesota to date: 45.3 million.

It took a while for the light to go on. Founded in 2003, Plymouth-based Energy Management Collaborative (EMC) works with businesses to develop ways for them to save money through energy-efficient lighting. The company’s in-house design engineers evaluate all options and help customers identify the best product for each project, then finalize designs to achieve desired light levels. EMC installs the lighting without disrupting the operations of its retail, industrial and commercial clients.

At first, businesses were skeptical. How much could they really save just on lighting? Was it enough to warrant hiring a consultant? Plus, there was a lot of competition going after the same type of projects. But by 2005, companies, including Sears, began giving EMC a try, and they discovered that the savings were significant. EMC now has clients in all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and Colombia; the company generated $60 million in revenue in 2014.

Jerry Johnson, CEO and managing member of EMC, saw the light more than a decade ago. Having served as CEO of Minnetonka-based Datacard and as president and general manager of Cummins Power Generation in Fridley, he knew that businesses were looking at projects that would reduce energy costs.

“Other companies were looking at capital projects and the payback,” Johnson says. “Lighting changes would reduce energy consumption by about 50 percent while increasing light output and quality. It’s such a compelling financial argument, it seemed like a no-brainer to me.”

Another of EMC’s earliest customers was Best Buy. Seeking to reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent by 2020, the Richfield-based electronics retailer tapped EMC to install 112,000 energy-efficient fixtures at 844 stores nationwide.

“We’re on track to achieve our goal this coming year, six years early. A huge factor is this lighting retrofit,” says Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, Best Buy’s director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “EMC was a good partner with us throughout the project. They helped us efficiently roll it out and made sure we achieved the benefit in the timeline we were projecting.”

Best Buy is one of the hundreds of customers EMC has worked with, and Johnson projects a 20 to 25 percent growth pace over the next five years. About 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies have sustainability goals, he says, providing plenty of potential opportunities for EMC. The company also is expanding its global footprint, starting in Colombia with projects at American customers’ outposts there. Johnson also sees other possibilities in South America and the United Kingdom, where energy costs are high.

One of EMC’s selling points, Johnson says, is its ability to secure every penny in incentive and rebate funds that utilities offer. It’s no small task, with more than 4,000 public utility commissions across the country, each with its own set of programs and procedures.

“We’ve become more and more proficient at finding incentives for customers and improving our process for filing them,” Johnson says. “The number of rebates and incentives we’ve processed has gone up tenfold. It has allowed us to make life easier for customers, and that’s paid off for clients and for us.”