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BPL Global: Helping Electric Utilities Become More Energy Efficient

As a country, we are beginning to see more green mixed in with our red, white, and blue. We are becoming smarter about recycling, and more and more hybrid cars are hitting the streets…but we still have a long way to go. “It will take at least a generation before people are weaned off gas guzzling cars and more conscious about energy conservation as a whole,” says Keith Schaefer, CEO of BPL Global, a company that is helping drive energy conservation in this country and around the world.

BPL Global

BPL Global provides electric utilities with Smart Grid Systems that optimize load, deliver major cost savings and achieve higher service reliability and energy efficiency.

“Whether you are in the European Union or the U.S., the demand for energy will grow at more than 17 percent over the next five years. If you look at the new capacity to supply the growth in demand for electricity, less than 7 percent is planned, so you can see that there is a big gap between demand and the ability to generate new energy,” Schaefer says.

Until the globe can close that gap, BPL Global, a company that started out doing broadband applications for residential and commercial utilities, has a solution.

Their solution is Power SGTM, a software and communications platform that works with smart devices deployed across the electric grid, which provides intelligence to the utilities that distribute power to aid in energy conservation, efficiency and reliability.

“It’s too much to ask the utilities to depart from the way they manage the grid now, so we worked within the framework of the utility and its operations,” says Schaefer. “In other words, use what they have and build on it. Power SG provides energy efficiency, but it also provides protection to the existing utility systems that are already out there.”

Making Pennsylvania a Global Leader

One of BPL’s software products focuses on outage management. “The first place we used outage management was at Duquesne Light in Monroeville, and it allowed them to prevent outages,” Schaefer says. “The product detects a problem in advance of trouble, so a crew can get out there and fix it before there is an outage. For the consumer, it means lights stay on, and they never know there was ever a problem.” For the utilities, it means higher customer satisfaction and greater efficiency. “Overall, we are anticipating saving utilities between 10 and 20 percent,” he adds.

Schaefer says that BPL Global and its products will become a showcase for the state and the whole world. Whether they are Californians, Floridians, or Chinese, people are going to come to see this software up and running, Schaefer says. “Plus, it is in alignment with Governor Rendell’s initiative to make Pennsylvania a leader in addressing global warming, climate change and the way energy is managed over the grid.”

To illustrate the effectiveness of BPL Global’s applications, Schaefer provides an example of savings: “In Kuwait, a nation of three million people and 800,000 households, we believe that between now and May 2008, our software deployed across their grid will save that country about $200 million dollars in a year for a cost of only $50 million on software and hardware,” he says. “And in terms of what Governor Rendell has said in his Energy Independence Strategy, he has quantified $230 million as a possible savings if we could save just three to five percent of the energy used at peak times in the summer.”

Turning a Pipe Dream into a Reality

BPL Global has been able to develop its energy- and money-saving applications in part because of a $300,000 investment from Innovation Works (Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Pittsburgh office).

“Clearly, Innovation Works took a risk. They believed in me and my management team’s vision and the belief that BPL Global would create new jobs and new sales tax revenue for the Commonwealth,” Schaefer says. “We took that money and basically started building the company from the ground up; without that money, BPL Global would have just been a pipe dream.”

In addition to financial investment, Innovation Works provided critical business assistance to help guide BPL through its startup phase. Schaefer says Innovation Works did such a great job advising BPL Global that he recruited the organization’s own portfolio executive to join their company as their chief marketing officer.

Since BPL Global has clearly shown its ability to thrive on its own, Innovation Works has played a smaller role. “We are still part of their family, but by virtue of the design of Innovation Works, once they see that you are healthy, growing and independent, they refocus on the next opportunity,” Schaefer says.

BPL Global currently employees 58 people, “and we have more coming,” Schaefer says. As the company’s CEO and a native of Pittsburgh, Schaefer says he is pleased to work for a company that will have a positive impact on the environment and also on his hometown. “We feel good about the small but significant effort we are making that is helping emerging nations-not just America-be competitive globally. And I think we can be really proud that Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not just going to benefit, but be the leaders.”

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This article was featured in
Keynotes June, 2007
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