9 years of UtilityAPI: this is what fighting climate change looks like

Daniel Roesler

How it all started

Nine years ago, after spending hundreds of hours manually tracking down and formatting customer utility data, I quit my job at a clean energy company. I continually found myself thinking, “somebody should really start a company that solves this problem,” so I did. Nine years ago, I rented a desk at a co-working space in Oakland, started coding, and incorporated UtilityAPI.

In the years since, UtilityAPI has gone from one employee (me) to a team of 40. We’ve gone from covering three utility service territories to 85 today. We’ve enabled over 1.6 million data transactions. But the thing I am most proud of is the sheer number of clean energy projects that have been deployed because of the data we provided.

The work of accessing, parsing, and cleaning utility data isn’t glamorous, but it is essential. UtilityAPI is creating the data access network and utility data infrastructure that enables many critical changes – more solar panels, EVs, electrified buildings, and virtual power plants. So on challenging days, I like to remind the team (and myself), “This is what fighting climate change looks like.”

Crucial inflection points

Building UtilityAPI hasn’t been easy. There were some really long years as we grew incrementally. We slowly added a new utility service territory here and a new solar installer customer there. But looking back on the past nine years and the critical moments that determined whether UtilityAPI would succeed or fail,  one thing stands out in my mind: the incredible impact of government grants.

In 2015, we received an early grant from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) that catapulted us from just three California utility service territories to 15 territories across America. Because of that investment, we were able to gain a significant amount of traction, hire new staff, and take an essential step forward. In 2017, we received our second DOE grant and evolved from strictly a company providing data access services to a company with a data infrastructure product that utilities could invest in and offer.

Because of these experiences, I have become a huge proponent of government-funded infrastructure enablement. I’ve seen firsthand how well it works and how critical it can be to the success of small companies like ours. Because of the SETO grants, UtilityAPI has hired people in 17 states, given 25 people their first jobs in the cleantech sector, brought two new products to the market, and raised over $10 million in private capital.

The funding has also empowered us to dedicate resources towards accelerating an equitable clean energy transition by partnering with organizations like Grid Alternatives. Since 2019, UtilityAPI has provided in-kind utility data access to Grid Alternatives, helping them install solar panels on over 1,100 low-income households and over 4.4 MW of solar across their portfolio.

Every dollar DOE invested in us has resulted in a significant return on investment for American families, the American economy, and our planet.

Statistics from UtilityAPI

Looking back to look ahead

Over the past nine years, UtilityAPI has come so much farther than I could have imagined when I quit my job in the solar industry. Staying the course required a lot of persistence and was only possible because the team is just as motivated and committed to the mission as I am. Now, we are starting to see the results and impact.

Watching customers sign up and use our utility data infrastructure to deploy real projects and implement customer programs in California, Colorado, Michigan, and New York is an amazing feeling. Best of all, we are disproving the myth that data access isn’t a meaningful accelerant to deploying clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy management projects.

Looking ahead, my goal is to capitalize on our momentum and ensure that streamlined data access will be so ubiquitous that it will be a shock when and where it’s not available. This will not only help maximize our fight against climate change but also ensure customer privacy and control of their utility data remains a priority.