George Manahilov, Founder
Three powerful trends are shaping business strategy today – rapid adoption of clean energy, digitalization, and sustainability. While many global corporations have firmly incorporated these trends in their business strategy in an effort to deliver more efficient, competitive and environmentally friendly products, small and medium-size enterprises (SME’s) have largely not benefitted from them. The reason is a common set of challenges that SME owners around the world share:
• Lack of management time: SME owners typically have their hand in all aspects of the business and cannot afford the time to dive into many new initiatives.
• Awareness: Many owners are still largely unaware of large corporations’ rapidly expanding sustainability requirements imposed on their supply chain.
• Lack of internal talent: Most SMEs do not have skilled internal resources to evaluate and formulate an appropriate framework for implementing digital or sustainability strategies.
• Cost: Sustainability and digitalization are new investments which need to generate commensurate return to compete with investments in the core business.
Providing SMEs with the tools to participate in these trends is the prime focus of 3-D Energy, a company headquartered in New York with core operations in several markets across Central Europe. George Manahilov, 3-D Energy’s Founder, is a serial clean energy entrepreneur who in his previous startup worked with global corporations seeking to further their sustainability efforts through purchasing energy from wind and solar projects. “Investing in big trends like digitalization and sustainability is a journey, not a one-time investment. One only needs to look at global leaders like Google, Microsoft, Ikea, or Daimler’s multiyear efforts to understand that. At 3-D Energy we initially started with offering business owners digital tools to optimize their energy usage, but quickly realized that our mission should be much broader,” affirms George. 3-D Energy calls itself a green energy, technology and sustainability marketplace for SME’s. It aims to create a radically different client experience – 3-D Energy starts with identifying problems through nonintrusive technology, sets a solutions framework, and provides multiple offers for implementation – all done in one place. On the partners side, 3-D Energy’s marketplace offers service providers an efficient way to access new clients which is strongly complementary to their own sales efforts. 3-D Energy’s offering is designed with a single goal in mind – to minimize the requirement for a business owner’s management time. That is why it follows a simple three-step approach. Step 1 involves building a ‘digital energy map’ of the business-through 3-D Energy’s core software product called Energy Intelligence. The company installs IoT sensors on key energy consumption areas of a facility – production lines, ventilation, compressors, parking, administration – which record energy data in 60-second intervals. “The installation takes place without disrupting the normal daily routine of a business,” comments George. “During the lockdown period many critical enterprises were open but did not let outside personnel on their premises, so we shipped them sensors and guided their own staff how to install them through a short video call.” The sensors stay at the client’s premises for a free 15-day evaluation period.
SME owners are the engine of growth around the world, they deserve to have the same tools as large corporates to build a more efficient, sustainable business
The ‘digital energy map’ serves as the basis for identifying key patterns of energy usage and often helps uncover areas with unnecessary consumption, such as lighting left on during the night. At the end of the 15- day period, in Step 2, the client gets a proposal of recommended actions. These include a roadmap of how to extract value from the business’ energy consumption using advanced data analytics and alerts, a complete evaluation of optimal solar or energy storage investments geared towards generating the strongest investment payback, and a framework of energy sustainability initiatives to make the business more attractive to product buyers with supplier sustainability requirements. Critically, evaluations and proposals up to this stage are free and impose no obligations, and do not require any of the business owner’s management time.
Finally, in Step 3, the client decides which recommended actions they would like to pursue. Business owners value highly options and flexibility, and that is where the structure of an independent marketplace is critical to winning their trust. For instance, if an SME owner wants to invest in a solar system, 3-D Energy will typically get 4-6 offers for the installation, and provide multiple options for modules and inverters. This completes the full value circle – initial evaluation, proposed solutions, multiple competitive offers and final implementation – all on one platform.
Business owners from the manufacturing, hospitality, packaging, recreation and restaurant sectors have been early adopters of 3-D Energy's platform and have found innovative and simple solutions. The company emphasizes that the starting point of assessing a client’s situation is critical. Out of an impressive catalog of success stories, George recalls one about a client looking to invest in solar at their factory to partially offset energy costs. The client had requested offers from solar installers and the two standard sets of questions they got were 'what are the parameters of your roof,' and 'what is your monthly energy bill'. However, neither of these questions addressed how adequately solar production would match the factory's actual three-shift working day energy consumption, so that it would maximize payback on the investment. "When we got involved, we mapped the facility’s major energy consumption in real time – including production lines, chillers, metal presses, and ventilation systems. The digital map showed that, even before we brought forth the topic of solar, through small operational adjustments they could reduce the energy capacity purchased from the utility by about 11 percent," adds George. Once the owner saw their optimized energy usage, they knew they needed a smaller solar system, a very helpful reduction of the required investment capital.
3-D Energy currently operates mostly in Central Europe, a region home to millions of growing SMEs with up to three hundred employees. While these businesses are tightly connected to the European Union (EU) market for their products, most do not have the internal resources to participate in the key trends impacting large European corporates. Critically, on 27 May, the EU announced an $825 billion Green Deal Recovery package incorporating economic recovery measures to combat the impact of covid-19 combined with significant green stimulus. This package could provide SME’s a significant opportunity to accelerate their green energy and sustainability efforts. “Digitalization, renewables adoption, sustainability – these are the long-term trends SME’s are just starting to pay more attention to. By nature, business owners are long-term investors as they successfully build businesses from scratch. They have the right mentality, but they do not have the time, the framework and the tools, and we are keen to help them with all that,” concludes George.