• Shane Wright

How to Successfully Close Commercial Solar Deals with DemandEx

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

If you’re a commercial solar person reading this, you’ve probably explored our website and case studies and now understand the value of DemandEx’s demand charge management software.

But how do you successfully explain the value of DemandEx to your commercial solar customers? You can point to a solar panel and a battery, but the software is invisible. It’s “in the cloud.” With that in mind, we’d like to offer a quick gude to a successful solar plus DemandEx pitch: Grab their attention

The perfect time to bring up DemandEx is on the front end when going over the potential solar customer's electric bills. The goal is for you, our partner installers, to be an energy consultant for the customer who has the right type of building for DemandEx.

Because they’re so expensive, Demand charges are easy to paint as “the bad guy” for utility bills. So start by saying something like: “When we analyzed your bill, we saw that you’re paying a lot in demand charges. On average, it’s 30 to 50% of your average bill.

Your customer nods. Ouch. Now you can try the following approaches:

The technical approach: “Installing solar is going to help reduce your energy usage, but not with demand spikes. So we have a new software tool that works with your solar system to cut demand charges down by 30%. It uses artificial intelligence (or AI) to coordinate when your building uses energy with when the solar produces energy.”

The compared-to-battery cost approach: A lot of solar installers will recommend installing a battery solution, but they’re expensive. Instead, we can cut your demand charges down by 30% with a low-cost software that’s 1/10th the cost of a battery.”

The simple cost approach: The good news is that we can use low-cost software to intelligently control your building’s loads and reduce your demand charges by 30%.”

The ROI-payback approach: “If you want to increase your project ROI and reduce your payback time, we can add building control software that can reduce your demand charges by 30% or about $X per year. It can also shorten your payback by 1 to 3 years. The green/climate/sustainability approach: We can add an energy control software that coordinates with solar production. It not only saves you more money than solar alone, it also cuts your building’s carbon intensity by half.”

Educate customers on the demand charge problem

The above works for owners and building managers who understand demand charges, but that’s not always the case. For clients who don’t get the difference between energy charges and demand charges, this is the time to educate them about why solar alone doesn’t help solve their demand charge problem.

Next, take out their utility bill and patiently explain all of the charges and rates. Most importantly:

  • Make sure they understand how their highest peak of the month sets their monthly demand charge.

  • Explain how unforgiving the utilities are for penalizing them for their worst mistake of the month, and

  • Make it clear how solar cannot reliably eliminate peak demand charges caused by demand spikes in the evening or on a cloudy day. You could even show them our "Devil Horns" graph that shows how the worst peaks can still happen with solar.

Once they understand demand charges, you can also explain how the building’s energy usage, particularly HVAC, isn’t optimized to reduce spikes in demand. Explain that even when solar is generating lots of clean power on a sunny day, someone unnecessarily turning up the air conditioning (perhaps at the same time someone plugs in an electric car) or a passing cloud can cause unnecessary spikes that set their demand charge peaks with no do-overs from the utility.

Educate them on the solution.

Now that the customer understands the problem, it’s time to talk about the solution. Explain to them that:

DemandEx software controls the most significant loads in the building (usually, this is HVAC)

By DemandEx intelligently managing loads in coordination with the solar generation, it can lop off up to 30% of those peaks.

Next, explain the “how.” DemandEx works by:

  1. Cycling compressors and slow ramping the HVAC system. So instead of turning everything all on at once, DemandEx avoids significant portions of spikes.

  2. Intelligently pre-conditioning the building. DemandEx software is super smart and crunches lots and lots of data from solar, the weather, building loads. Using that data, the software predicts what the building is going to be doing and what the solar system is going to be doing. It then determines when it is best to air-condition the building. By allowing the building to operate within a range of comfortable temperatures (usually 70 - 76 F), the software can cool the building down during the day when the solar is producing, and allow the building to heat up a few degrees in the evening when the solar stops generating. This is the primary way that DemandEx saves on demand charges, but there are other ways, too.

  3. Eliminating waste. DemandEx is like a 24/7 facility manager. It’s always working, never sleeping, and it’s constantly monitoring the building’s energy use and then controlling it to make sure energy isn’t used at costly times or wasted.

For example, if someone forgets to turn off the AC on Friday, don’t worry about it. DemandEx knows it’s after hours, DemandEx will turn it off. It’s so smart that it will also gently pre-cool the building early Monday morning, preventing an excessive demand charge spike that would have happened when the first person walked into the building and turned on the AC.

Closing the sale with real numbers.

Now that your customer understands demand charges and how DemandEx reduces them, show your customer some real numbers. We recommend using UtilityAPI to quickly download 15-minute interval data or request the data from the utility. After you get that interval data, pass it along to Extensible. We'll analyze the demand charges for free and send back a before-and-after estimate that includes costs, savings, ROI, and payback.

Need more tips? Want to become an Extensible Plus solar partner and try these sales suggestions? Give us a call.

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