Engie Is on a Distributed-Energy Acquisition Spree. How’s It Going?

It’s been over nine months since Engie North America acquired
three companies in succession — turning Green Charge Networks
into Engie Storage, OpTerra Energy Services into Engie Services
U.S., and Ecova to Engie Insight.

At the time, the French energy company said the
rebrand
would broaden the portfolio of options available to its
growing customer base in the U.S. and Canada. 

“At Engie we are not a technology producer, we are not a
battery producer, we are an integrator,” said Engie’s CEO
Isabelle Kocher last week at a Stanford University event on the future of energy.
“We are trying to analyze the situation of the client…to
understand the needs for energy. The main space in which we invest
is to assemble this kind of holistic solution.”

Several months since this brand change, Greentech Media spoke
with the new slate of Engie companies to assess the impact.

Many of them said working under Engie has offered new
credibility. 

“From an external point of view, being able to signify and
highlight to everyone that we’re part of Engie — a blue chip,
reputable energy company that’s going to be around for a long
time — is very helpful for a company like us in a new and
emerging market,” said Chris Tilley, CEO of Engie Storage,
formerly Green Charge. 

Engie acquired Green Charge in 2016. The company focuses on
commercial storage installations, mostly in California and
Massachusetts. It has about 78 megawatt-hours deployed or under
construction at 167 U.S. sites.

Tilley said that reputation helped internally as well. The
global reach of the larger brand, he said, gives Engie Storage more
motivation to expand its mission. 

While Engie Storage maintains a tight focus on key markets in
California and Massachusetts, Tilley said Engie’s global focus
will help the company expand when ready.

That global scale helped Engie Services, formerly Opterra,
according to CEO John Mahoney. 

“We’re looking at solutions for cities and universities, for
example, that we never would have looked at if we were just
Opterra,” he said. “We have this global company, Engie, that
has all these broad capabilities — and now we can tap into
those.” 

Engie also bought Opterra in 2016. Mahoney said the company
always had strong business in the West, the Northeast and the upper
Midwest. Since becoming part of Engie, the company has laid out
more specific geographic focuses: from Boston to D.C., from
Vancouver to San Diego, from Montreal to Chicago and Texas. 

Mahoney said Engie’s build-out in North America is designed to
give the company a platform of “broad, comprehensive solutions”
for its customers. Part of that vision means linking the work of
newly-acquired businesses. Opterra used to work with a third-party
to offer power purchase agreements to customers. Now, Engie Storage
has Engie Resources to facilitate PPA financing. 

Mathias Lelievre, CEO of Engie Insight and chair of
Engie-business
EV Box
, said the firm now has access to a wider range of
expertise. 

“We see a lot of clients developing solar, we see a lot of
clients wanting to develop electric vehicle infrastructure or
interested in some innovative solutions around the way they procure
their energy,” said Lelievre. “Being part of the Engie family,
we are able to make those links much more easily.”

The new sister companies are also learning how to juggle
partnerships that might be competitive with Engie.

Engie Insight, for instance, helps over 1,000 clients chart
sustainability plans. Sometimes that means a corporate client wants
to acquire solar and wind, which Engie can provide. But Lelievre
said Engie Insight will continue to consider whether competitors,
like Constellation and Direct Energy, provide the best option in
certain circumstances. 

“Sometimes we are going to work with Engie as the provider to
address the needs of the client, and sometimes we are going to work
with competitors,” he said.  

Tilley said the suite of companies are still navigating the best
ways to collaborate. “It’s a work in progress figuring out how we
all work together,” said Lelievre.

Engie has specific support staff in its North American Houston
headquarters to aid new businesses with financial advisory and
communications associated with integration. Mahoney said he
appreciated the “breathing room” Engie offered when
transitioning Opterra to Engie Services.

“All the companies we’ve acquired are tier one companies,
leaders in their industry, have great customer bases, have great
leadership. What we’ve definitely learned is that it’s really
important to hold on to the leadership team, it’s really
important to communicate early and often to the customers about
what’s going on, as well as [to] the employees,” said Mahoney.
“You want to transform the organization as quickly as possible
and integrate it as quickly as possible, but at the same time you
have to bring customers and employees along in a very thoughtful
manner … so they don’t get swamped by the big Engie
mothership” 

All of Engie’s acquisition companies have maintained their
business — while being offered opportunities for expansion —
under that “mothership.”

Mahoney said Engie Services continues to focus on efficiency
upgrades for public buildings and in the commercial and industrial
sector.

“Those were the customers and those were the offerings we had
before being part of Engie. Those are still our products and
services, we just have a deeper bench to do it with,” said
Mahoney. “We also have more capabilities to actually self-perform
some of the work now with our sister companies. We also have access
to more sophisticated financial solutions in being part of
Engie.” 

Since its January rebrand of American acquisitions, Engie’s
North American arm has also acquired solar developer
Socore Energy
, wind developer Infinity Renewables, electrical
construction company Unity International and energy services
contractor Donnelly Mechanical Corporation. Those companies have so
far retained their brand names. 

Kocher said changes to Engie’s portfolio will reflect its
philosophy about how the industry is changing.

“It is clear that we are moving from something that was
relatively simple, with big plants fueling networks and clients
very far, to something that is in fact fully distributed,” said
Kocher at Stanford. “At Engie, we have decided to really push …
to fully align our portfolio of our company with the energy
transition.”

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Engie Is on a Distributed-Energy Acquisition Spree. How’s It Going?