Ben Churchill and Norman Crowley on Emrill Energy Services' launch
Ben Churchill and Norman Crowley dish out more details on the formation of Emrill Energy Services
There’s an air of jubilation surrounding Ben Churchill, managing director of Emrill, and Norman Crowley, founder and chairman of Crowley Carbon. And for good reason — since the launch of Emrill Energy Services at the beginning of November 2012, they have been inundated with inquiries about the firm’s services and confirmed deals.
The Emrill Energy division has been created in partnership with Crowley Carbon, Ireland and CES UK to provide energy management solutions from consultancy and design through to installation and monitoring.
Crowley says the firm very rarely partners with anyone on ventures. “We tend to do a lot of this on our own, but we were blown away by Emrill’s scale and reach in the region, and also we really got along with the senior management team.
We felt that they will operate fast in the area and we haven’t been disappointed. The ink has barely been drying on the agreement and we’ve got a launch and a lot of clients lined up.”
He adds that statistics show the UAE ranked third in the world for energy consumption per capita per head in 2011, following Qatar and Trinidad & Tobago. “So what better place really, to do this?” he says with a smile.
Churchill adds to the reasoning: “As a building maintainer with long-term relationships with high-profile clients within the Middle East, we have a good understanding of how a building operates and its operational challenges.”
He says that Emrill was considering the potential for energy services in the region for 18 months, while trying to figure out how to differentiate themselves in the market and add value.
“Other firms claim to do energy services and do to an extent, but they tend to offer consultancy services or are from a manufacturer and their interest is in selling you things and then leaving.
We’re very different — we’re product agnostic so it doesn’t matter where the products comes from. What we do is we sell savings. This isn’t about selling a piece of equipment.”
He adds: “The cost of energy within the building is almost twice the cost of its FM, and globally, 40% of carbon emissions come from the build environment.”
Crowley Carbon has a structured approach when it comes to dealing with existing buildings. It has acquired a technology called Automated Continuous Commissioning which can figure out if anything is amiss with a building’s control system, and can make a recommendation on how to fix it and also affixes a price against the energy loss being made until it is repaired.
“It’s the first time anyone’s ever linked a mechanical break with a financial result. It also has a neural network technology that’s like artificial intelligence so it can see from a trend of errors in the building management system as to what the problem is. There’s no other system like that [in the world],” explains Crowley proudly.
Technology figures heavily in the partnership’s operation, in spite of some obstacles. “I think there’s a general resistance among facility managers to very cutting edge technology. We’ve been really insistent that that actually does work.
It’s not just a flash in the pan. What we tend to find is that facility managers don’t fully trust it. They’re inclined to override it and so a lot of time we spend forcing them to accept that it can work automatically all the time,” he adds.
The firm has modelled its system taking inspiration from tech firm Apple’s approach to its products — not including an instruction manual. “If it needs training then we probably made it too complicated,” says Crowley.
The firm also looks at the way a building has been designed and judges if it can make minor design changes. “Typically those would get you another 10% reduction in the energy consumption of buildings,” adds Crowley.
“We always were a leader in managing lifecycles and optimising the asset maintenance, but a critical part of an asset cost is its consumption — that was never previously considered.
By fusing energy services with facilities management, we are able to create this concept of a high performance building where asset lifecycle decisions are made taking into account all of the facts and optimising the cost of an asset over its lifetime considering everything that it does,” explains Churchill.
In addition to this, the firm offers what it calls “macro solutions”, which is related to products it uses to help keep energy consumption down. “To give you an idea, all in all, we’ve got 80 different products from 80 companies, and our own inventions,” says Crowley.
With a successful launch in the UAE, Crowley Carbon has since been approached to do something in Beirut, Saudi Arabia, and in Egypt.
Speaking about how the response has been, Churchill says: “Overwhelming I think would be the adjective I would use. I was expecting interest but we have new customers coming on board, people who haven’t worked with us before. People are really seeing something different in the market, and seeing the impact we can make on their operations and their business.”
While Crowley and Churchill say they cannot reveal which projects they’re working on, Crowley does say the firm has secured 14 towers in Dubai, some factories and a few projects in Abu Dhabi.
“And that’s been only in one week,” says Crowley with a grin. However, he doesn’t think the interest in energy efficiency has anything to do with excessive greenhouse gases; he says it’s a financial problem.
“Financial issues are driving people towards this rather than anything else. Some people care about the environment, but money is the main driver.” Churchill agrees: “We focus very much on the delivering of savings and delivering financial benefit because actually, mostly that’s the first priority for a customer.
However, the other surrounding effects such as LEED certification, Estidama certification, are very much something that comes along as part of that. We’re developing the capability to help the client we’ve saved energy for also get that certification and the credibility that that comes with.”
He says it’s important to remember that the real opportunities in the UAE are in retrofit. He explains that the reality is that most buildings exist in a city that’s already built so the biggest impact the firm can make is with buildings that are already operating. “We can make existing buildings smart,” says Churchill.
The partnership with Crowley Carbon is focused on B2B, however Emrill is developing technology platforms and working closely with significant government institutions to drive energy savings through its residential portfolio business so it will ultimately be able to offer energy services to consumers too.
“We guarantee the results. We have a simple one page guarantee, and really it’s as simple as ‘we’re going to put this in, and if it doesn’t save what we say it’s going to save, we’ll reduce the price to still deliver you what we promised you’ and that’s a very strong claim.
“We do come down here with a $200m financing capability as well. So if there are buildings where the sinking fund isn’t as high as it should be, then we have the ability to finance the project as well and then take the money back off the savings,” explains Crowley.
Churchill says: “We live in a wonderful and modern city, but energy is a real big concern and increasingly so.
“We look into the future and I don’t think any projection has energy costs going down. Energy security globally is a big risk in every country, so dealing with that by not using as much is the most important thing we can do.
Although we focus on the real financial savings and the surrounding benefits from corporate social responsibility, sustainability, sustaining our future is very important.”
Crowley adds: “The goal of this joint venture is to make Dubai buildings the most efficient in the world.”