With Cash from Siemens and ArcelorMittal, Powerit Looks to Expand, Tap the Smart Grid

In the world of cleantech, there’s a lot of focus on alternative energy sources and power generation. But for Seattle’s Powerit Solutions, the name of the game is energy efficiency. Powerit is the North American division of the company, which also has a European division in Sweden (where the company started). It is a leader in energy management and conservation for industry—one of the major strengths of Washington state’s cleantech cluster.

I spoke with chief executive Claes Olsson last week to find out how Powerit is trying to help companies save money and power, and how the firm plans to grow its business globally, all without working on the power generation side of things. “It’s pretty expensive to build up new sources of electricity,” Olsson said. “Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit.”

The Swedish part of the company has been around since 1994, and the Seattle division since 2002. Olsson joined the company two years later, and in 2005, he said, “that’s when we really got going on the product.” With $6 million raised last month in new funding led by Siemens Venture Capital and ArcelorMittal (together with @Ventures and Expansion Capital Partners), and an expansion from five employees in 2007 to its current 47 (25 in the U.S.), the company does seem to be on the upswing.

“We have grown immensely,” Olsson said. “Our intention is to continue to grow but be smart about it.”

Powerit makes hardware and software to reduce energy consumption and electricity bills in industrial facilities. Part of the solution is energy efficiency—figuring out where energy is being wasted in companies and reducing it. But another big part is in “demand response,” which means understanding when utility companies’ rates are highest and tweaking a facility’s energy usage to avoid those costly peaks.

For individuals, avoiding those peaks might just mean remembering not to run your dishwasher until the late evening. For large industries, it means setting up an intelligent system to monitor those peaks and dial down expended energy as much as possible. Utility companies will send a warning that rates are … Next Page »

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Rachel Tompa is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. She can be reached at rmtompa@yahoo.com. Follow @

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