Written by The Business Journal Staff
Spectrum Energy Solutions, Inc.
CEO and founder
What we do: As a professional energy services group, we develop individual solutions to reduce energy costs for commercial, industrial and food processing customers. No residential. We do offer services to small commercial customers. Most of our clients are in California with some in Texas and Oklahoma.
Education: Master’s in engineering, Fresno State
Age: 57 (no grey hair just yet)
Family: two kids
What exactly is an energy trading and consulting firm and what exactly does Spectrum Energy Solutions, Inc. do, Mike?
Short answer: We are an energy solutions company. We do all the things that you had hoped your gas and electric utility would do but are not able. You are not stuck; you have buying options and management options to reduce cost. You have every right to pay the lowest cost for your energy. We provide energy buying solutions (better energy buying): third party gas and electricity, buying smarter on your side of the meter. We provide engineering solutions relating to energy: Should you install solar? Should you install cogeneration? What is the payback for installing certain energy efficient equipment? Should you switch fuels? We provide energy accounting solutions: Every major user of energy should have a forensic audit going back at least three years. We provide energy advocacy solutions: We represent our clients to assist them with problems they have with PG&E and SCE. And there is a lot of unhappiness in this regard.
What are some of the larger projects your company has been involved with that people might not know about, Mike?
We are the consultant and broker for Shell Energy Trading for the past 15 years. We buy electric power for Tesla, Harris Beef, Zacky Farms and Raley’s stores. We serve as the consultant for Mendota Biorefinery and broker all of the gas, electricity and green products coming to that facility. We are involved in a major biogas development project in Tulare. We are taking to the transportation sector with our goal to find a long-term home for a fleet of biogas vehicles. The gas is compressed and put in a tube-trailer, then taken to certain locations. We are also involved in a major gas pipeline project in Merced, battery storage project in the Bay Area, buying natural gas for large customer in Bakersfield oil fields and assisting many large farming (water pumping) customers in Fresno County.
What are some of the biggest steps the Valley needs to take to become more energy efficient, Mike?
There is energy efficiency and there is demand (kW) efficiency—we need both. Demand efficiency will be the bigger economic issue in the future. Customer needs for demand (electric capacity, Kw) is key. Approximately 35-45 percent of the electricity bill is for capacity. This is something that everyone can manage if they know how. Energy efficiency should be driven by return on investment, not philanthropy. Every project should be evaluated based on its financial return to the company.
What are some of the most crucial things about energy do you think the general public is unaware of, Mike?
You have no-investment options to reduce costs but you have to know what they are and how to deploy them. Examples: rate schedule review — we do this in real time and we monitor “ the best rate” ongoing. Technology is only part of the answer. Take the example of the Prius. Good gas mileage, but you still need to gas-up at the least cost. Direct access electricity needs to be expanded in California
What are some of the biggest technological advancements in energy do you expect to see over the coming years, Mike?
Shale gas will moderate gas costs. It is not without its problems environmentally, but shale gas is here to stay. How we get this gas to market efficiently is a big issue. Telemetry: Real time information about energy. Knowledge-based options: how much are you using and when are you using it? Diminishing dependence on the utility for answers. Cost per watt for solar will continue to come down — you don’t need to be in a hurry. Technologies around demand management, peak-limiting software.
I understand you believe liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be really big in the future, why is that, Mike?
There is tremendous emissions reduction going from trucking diesel to natural gas. The problem is you have to get the gas into a liquefied state to compete with diesel. If you can cool it and get it in liquid form, it will be a great fuel option. Five years from now, 20 percent of the trucks will run on LNG. The cost difference is just huge at about 1/3 the cost of diesel. What’s happening is natural gas price is stabilizing and it will be huge in the future.
What are some of your most memorable experiences at Spectrum Energy Solutions, Inc., Mike?
The $200,000 rate-related refund for a large ag customer, becoming the energy expert for Tesla, providing expert witness testimony relating to tariff issues and being the project developer for a major natural gas pipeline to replace propane. Also growing the business into a firm of 16 people (and growing) with offices in Fresno and Bay Area.
What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it, Mike?
A Future Farmers of America project in high school. Won the Central Valley project competition for my integrated livestock project. I also worked for the state college system as a roving California state energy expert to support ag.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time, Mike?
I play racquetball. I love music and concerts.