December 9, 2016

Small business moves to Vt. via Inspire Space

Provided Photo

Greenbanc founder North Lennox works at the GMP Inspire Space in Colchester.

COLCHESTER — Through a recent contest, the energy-assessment company Greenbanc became one of five entrepreneurs to share space and work alongside the Green Mountain Power team in GMP’s Inspire Space.

The Inspire Space is an area located inside GMP’s Colchester headquarters meant to attract and support energy entrepreneurs and open the door to ways they can collaborate with the utility.

Like GMP, Greenbanc is a certified B Corp, meaning it values making a positive social and environmental impact and meets certain standards in those areas. The nonprofit B Lab gives the B Corp certification, based on criteria that need to be met.

Greenbanc was the fifth business to get involved with the Inspire Space, after founder North Lennox heard about the recent contest when he was living in New York.

“I ended up getting in touch with GMP and was super excited to be one of the winners for the contest,” Lennox said. “I moved from New York to Burlington in early July.”

The Inspire Space is now Greenbanc’s headquarters. GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said the space helps cultivate the “symbiotic relationship” that exists between the utility and cutting-edge energy entrepreneurs. The goal is to help these companies grow and “adopt products and services that could ultimately benefit our customers.”

Lennox, 38, is an Oregon native and a graduate of the Yale School of Management. He previously made the switch from the investment-management industry into the clean-energy sector, which led him to found Greenbanc.

Greenbanc offers home energy-efficiency assessments through the Home Energy Score program offered through the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with the score, homeowners also get a report including recommendations on how to make the home more efficient. A key part of Greebanc’s model, is that the company helps clients find local contractors who can do the work.

Leading up to founding the business, Lennox said, he saw an opening in the clean-energy market for home energy assessors working within the Home Energy Score program.

“Clearly, they’d invested a lot in the program and wanted to make it successful, but they needed help, both from local providers and growing the pool of assessors … I created Greenbanc as a way to help do that,” Lennox said.

Unlike some other energy assessments, Lennox said, the Home Energy Score only takes an hour.

“The assessor is in and out,” he said.

Because it’s faster, Lennox added, it’s also less expensive than similar services, at a rate of $99. He’s currently looking at funding that could lower that cost or make it free.

Lennox said the Home Energy Score is “asset-based” and takes into account the insulation levels, square footage and a number of other aspects of the home that could impact efficiency.

“The report that comes back, it’s entirely reliant on building science,” Lennox said.

He pointed out that in Vermont there’s a wide market for this kind of work, noting that Vermont has the second-oldest housing stock in the U.S., and there are still a lot of historic homes needing energy improvements.

“I often find homeowners can save $500 to $1,000 per year by making fairly simple improvements,” Lennox said.

Lennox also wanted to make the Home Energy Score better-known in the real estate world, noting that some sellers are discouraged from making home energy-efficiency improvements since the sale is coming up. In fact, Lennox mentioned the idea of making the Home Energy Score mandatory when a house is being sold.

“The cost of the improvements can be rolled into the mortgage financing, which is usually lowest-cost financing,” he said.

Going forward, Lennox said, he wants to collaborate with other home-energy assessors and contractors to improve home energy efficiency throughout the state. He said Vermont needs “all hands on deck” to tackle the issue, also noting the positive impact on the job market that will result.

“There are going to be a lot of job opportunities in the future around this work,” Lennox said. “It’s really a growing industry for everyone.”

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