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Friday, January 27, 2023

HBCU Alumni, Colleagues Create Dynamic Energy Solutions Business

For some business and residential consumers, taking steps to reduce energy waste may mean switching to energy efficient light bulbs or installing newer insulated windows. However, there is more to consider when it comes to cutting energy usage on a bigger scale.

“Overlooked energy savings for residents and business include using programmable thermostats that adjust temperatures when the home or business is not occupied, LED light bulbs, proper insulation, making annual checks on the HVAC system for optimal efficiency, and taking advantage of utility sponsored energy efficiency programs,” Phil Croskey, CEO and co-founder of MD Energy Advisors (MDEA) said.

In 2010, three colleagues co-founded MDEA to provide energy solutions to a range of customers while building on the idea of improving energy efficiency. Paul Clary, co-founder of MDEA; Jason Schwartzberg, president and co-founder; and Croskey started an energy solutions company that is headquartered in Baltimore. They began their entrepreneurial journey while working at Baltimore Development Corporation, which is the city of Baltimore’s economic development arm. The budding entrepreneurs wanted to start their own business.

Today, MDEA has become a business to remember by serving clients in diverse manners. Their clients include owners of commercial real estate companies. MDEA helps them to reduce their energy related expenses.

 “The way that we do that is through a combination of energy efficiency. We help them use less electricity and less natural gas at their facilities,” Clary said. “Then there is something called energy procurement, where we help them purchase electricity and natural gas at a rate more favorable than what they were purchasing their electricity and natural gas at prior.”

MDEA also performs outsource engineering functions for utilities. Energy efficiency rebate programs are typically administered by outside firms.

“We are one of the outside firms that assist with administering those utility rebate programs,” Clary said.

Another MDEA service offering is handling energy related financing.

“There’s a form of financing called PACE. PACE is an acronym for Property Assessed Clean Energy financing. It’s basically debt that can be put towards energy related improvements in both new construction projects and then also in major renovation projects as well. So, we serve as an intermediary placing that debt on behalf of clients,” Clary said.

A newer MDEA initiative entails working with HBCUs. Clary and Croskey graduated from Morgan State University (MSU). Their passion for HBCUs led them to offer services to assist HBCUs through MDEA. Clary pointed out that HBCUs are known for having historic buildings on their campuses.

“One of the challenges that they often face is improving and sort of modernizing those facilities,” he said.

Morgan State University and Benedict College have been working on campus-wide energy efficiency projects to improve the energy efficiency of the campuses and help to address deferred maintenance. MDEA has been involved in energy auditing for MSU by going through the facilities and identifying areas of opportunity to make the facilities more efficient. In the case of Benedict College, Clary added that MDEA has taken on a larger role to help initiate a campus-wide project from start to finish.

Clary explained reducing the amount of energy that is being consumed leads to reducing costs of operating expenses, but it also reduces the campus’    carbon footprint.

“There’s multiple benefits associated with running a more energy efficient campus,” Clary said.

He also noted that keeping costs down plays a very important role in helping HBCUs to redeploy their capital for other financial uses such as providing scholarships or supporting academic programs.

While reflecting on the company’s beginning, Clary recounted a few reasons why he and his co-founders pursued the energy solution field. Their wheels started turning with an idea after Schwartzberg read an article about energy deregulation in Maryland and opportunities that were associated with it. Although none of the colleagues had energy backgrounds, they decided to collectively invest $10,000 to launch their business.

“Our first two years in business, we stuck to that adage ‘don’t quit your day job,’” Clary said.

The partners worked on their business nights and weekends. Clary, Schwartzberg and Croskey taught themselves the business during a two-year period prior to pursuing the company full time.

Croskey further noted that MDEA even assists utility clients. He helps them to implement their Energy Efficiency Incentive programs, while overseeing and leading the Utility Solutions division. The division has grown from serving one client in 2018 to having over 11 clients in six states.

“I credit an insistence on a customer and community-centric approach as the pillars to MD Energy Advisors’ success,” he said.

 Visit https://www.mdenergyadvisors.com to learn more about MDEA.

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