Our objective at CFR is nothing less than to change the way the energy industry develops and operates power generation assets from a supplier-out approach to one that starts with the customer.
In the 1990s, our founders Gary Farha and Dilip Kamat (both former utility company managers) were partners and energy practice leaders at McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s premier global management consulting firms. Their charge was to help power utilities become more customer focused in order to better meet the challenges of upcoming deregulation. However, they found that the structure of guaranteed returns to shareholders and a hundred years of established processes made it very difficult for utilities to transition to a customer-first model.
At the same time, most customers had nowhere else to turn. Most distributed generation options were in their infancy and it was nearly impossible for customers to maximize the value of projects given the complexity of the parties that had to be involved, from developers and regulators to public utilities commissioners, technology manufacturers, merchant plants, and power pools.
Building an organization outside the paradigm
Twenty years later, deregulation had changed the electricity landscape. Free markets were enabling generated power to move around the country, and efficiency improvements were driving out energy costs. Onsite natural gas-fired cogeneration plants had led the way by providing customers with electricity and steam needs to self-generate at a lower cost than through utility purchases. Then, as interest and requirements increased (and costs fell) renewables charged onto the scene and the demand for sustainable solutions began to grow. However, to date, utilities have captured the lion’s share of the value from them.
Farha and Kamat saw an opportunity for a broader set of customers to take more control. They set out to build an organization operating outside the existing paradigm, founded on transparency and giving customers product offerings that were different than what had been available before. They assembled a team of energy experts from around the country with backgrounds in project development, energy finance, customer relations, and other key skills. Since launching CustomerFirst Renewables in 2010, they have been focused on growing a very satisfied client base, which includes for-profits, government agencies and NGOs.
What does the customer future hold?
We at CFR believe that customers will continue to have an ever-growing role managing their own electricity supplies. With continued innovation on the supply side and the increasing implications of climate change on the triple bottom line, we are committed to helping users of electricity strategize about what mix of energy sources is right for them – and then do everything we possibly can to get them there.