While Cancun may have been a damp squib of a sequel to Copenhagen
confusion, it proved something of a landmark event for the ascendant energy
efficiency software schemers Hara.
As politicos sang from the same non-committal hymn sheet, the Redwood
City, California-start up used the occasion as a platform to announce a
deal with the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) in one of
the largest energy efficiency deals ever made.
Covering more than 200,000 facilities across the hydrocarbon hungry
(consumption and export) yet environmentally aware and ambitious (see the
multibillion tech-incubating, zero-carbon aspiring Masdar City) Emirate,
the deal is expected to save $3B in energy costs over the next ten years.
Hara’s ‘software-as-a-service’ will provide system-wide consumption
monitoring as well as conservation and efficiency investment modelling,
giving a holistic view of energy consumption in the region and mapping out
and prioritising the necessary solutions.
As a result, a whopping eight 500MW conventional natural gas power
plants can be deferred, while total annual energy savings are projected to
top 12,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2020. This would save almost 10M tonnes
of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere – the equivalent to taking
1.9M cars off the road.
While the magnitude of the deal has caught the eye, it indicative of a
wider trend of Hara love across the world. Having only opened for business
in June 2009 (after 18 months in ‘stealth’ mode), the company is already
making an impact in 97 countries, and has racked up an impressive client
list that includes Coca-Cola, Hasbro, NewsCorp, Safeway, not to mention the
cities of Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Palo Alto.
Palo Alto serves as a fine case in point of the Hara modus operandi.
One hundred and sixty ongoing projects pertaining to areas of
sustainability, energy efficiency and natural resource management are
currently under the microscope.
With the help of Hara’s products, city employees in 13 departments
ascertain which facilities are the biggest emission culprits and use them
as best practice examples for other departments to tackle further
In the first 12 months, this approach yielded reductions of electricity
use by 8%, natural gas by 25%, and solid waste by 22% – leading an overall
carbon emission reduction of 12%.
Amit Chatterjee says that Hara’s aggregatory data magic resulted in
US$550,000 of cost savings in the first nine months.
Hara’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed – its website is heaving with
accolades; scoring the No.7 slot in The Guardian and the Cleantech Group’s
annual Cleantech 100 report is a particular favourite of Chatterjee’s.
On a personal level, the ever-convivial, hyper-energetic Chatterjee has
emerged as something of a go-to guru for all things pertaining to hi-tech
energy efficiency in the US, a role that resulted in an invite to the
Whitehouse in July 2009 for a confab about America’s “clean energy future”
with President Obama and a selection of CEOs working on the green cutting
Much of Hara’s impressive growth is linked with the increasing rigour
of environmental legislation across the globe. The UK, in particular, is
proving a highly lucrative example of this, with policies such as the CRC
Energy Efficiency Scheme starting to wield a considerable influence and
make Hara’s track-record, scalability and accuracy a very attractive
“The UK’s leadership around this topic has made it much more palatable
for organizations that are global in nature to really take a serious look
at results-driven energy efficiency reduction,” Chatterjee notes.
While it has been an impressive growth-story, it has come as no
surprise to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, Al Gore, who wasted
no time in backing the company once its business plan was made clear. To
date Hara has secured US$20M in venture capital funding from two rounds of
“Hara’s business metrics, however you look at them, however you
highlight them, show we’ve done very well for a Silicon Valley energy
management company,” says Chatterjee confidently.
So why does Hara (which is Sanskrit for “fresh green”) stand out from a
crowd of the around 152 companies claiming to offer similar services?
To Chaterjee the answer is simple. No other company offers an “end to
end software as service” that encompasses every aspect of the resource
consumption and environmental impact – from energy and water to waste and
Predicated on a state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure, Hara’s eminently
configurable applications yield what Chatterjee calls the “organisational
metabolic index”: a lucid, auditable, malleable dataset that tells it like
it unflinchingly is before setting out the mitigative actions needed to
reap any subsequent capital and operational expenditure rewards.
Through its cumulative data-gathering and ongoing service refinement,
Hara believes that it has the opportunity to create an unprecedented body
of knowledge that will have a dramatic influence on the process and
industry of environmental impact reduction.
“Nobody in the market had talked about a comprehensive view of how you
actually solve this energy problem and how you engage in it in a
fundamental way where it is not a discussion around faith or beliefs but
economics and environmental incentives,” says Chatterjee.
Hara has big ambitions moving forward. Of the 4T kWh currently being
consumed in the US market per year, Chatterjee estimates that up to 1.5T
are in Hara’s commercial and industrial playing field. In the next three to
five years, he wants to take responsibility for driving down 200B of those
kWh, making Hara one of the largest virtual utility projects on the planet.
“That’s our expectation – that’s our big hairy audacious goal,” he
says. Chatterjee is quick to add that by no means is his mission all about
billions of customers, login rates and ad revenue. His mission is to drive
kW hours out of the system.
“The mission, the focus is to create sustainable businesses on a global
scale,” he explains.
“It’s not about how big Hara can get, it’s about how big an opportunity
we can address.”
Hara has already staked its claim as one of the absolute front-runners
in a crowded field of software-guided energy efficiency companies, but for
all the competition it is still the humble spreadsheet – beloved by many a
sustainability manager across the world – that is the biggest conceptual
To buck this trend, time needs to be spent educating clients about the
enormous opportunities that lie in wait once the habitual ad hoc reporting
“It is about shifting to an enterprise wide system that allows
companies to tie sustainability to financial improvements,” he suggests.
Chatterjee is a successful veteran and survivor of the 1990s dot-com
Wild West. His start-up CV includes a consulting firm to help Fortune 500
companies embrace the web, and an instant messenger service sold for a
hefty whack to now defunct internet portal Excite@Home.
His next move was to “put on a suit” and walk into the management
consulting firm McKinsey, after which he took on the role as head of
software giant SAP’s governance, risk and compliance unit (during his
tenure revenue increased from $30M to $250M).
Eventually the “start up bug” returned as he realized just how big an
opportunity there was in charting corporate inefficiency, specifically
through telling a single version of the truth of an organization’s
“I realised it’s not all about rolling up your sleeves putting new
windows and solar panels on the building,” he explains.
“The number one focus was that I could help generate transparency. If
we could create transparency around how organizations work and metabolized
energy and water, we would be able to create a very compelling set of
software and services that would allow Hara to reach the trajectory it is
on today, which is a global player around the topic of energy and
Hara’s evolution is steady and entirely logical. Three years ago (2008)
was about identifying what the customer wanted to measure. Two years ago
(2009) saw that supplemented to achieve consistent global reporting on all
Last year heralded the next level of “deep-dive” towards truly granular
dataset juggling. For example, understanding the energy expenditure from
all of the components of, say, a meeting room.
The scaleable opportunities are intriguing – Chatterjee talks excitedly
about scenarios like a factory with 27 different energy consuming machines
and being able to pinpoint which is the biggest drain at the press of a
Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done to get Hara to where
Chatterjee truly wants it to be.
“To a large degree what Hara has started with and what it has emerged
to is only a portion of a broader, longer story that requires a lot of hard
work,” he says.
“We’re not as sexy as social networking or online coupons, but
nevertheless we have lasting impact that fundamentally takes time to
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