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UrbanVolt offers corporations ‘light as a service’ to fight climate change with LED bulbs

Massive floods, mega droughts, famine, economic collapse, and an imminent death for just about all life on Earth. That’s pretty much the ultimate doomsday scenario proffered by some climate change scientists and writers out there.

A New York magazine article from David Wallace-Wells last year painted the bleakest of pictures for our immediate future here on this planet. “It is, I promise, worse than you think,” Wallace-Wells said. A similarly grim article in the Guardian a few months back echoed those sentiments, with 86-year-old social scientist Mayer Hillman opining that the sooner we accept the impending end of most life on Earth, the sooner we can get to work prolonging it. That’s right, not saving it … just making it last a little longer.

Grim words indeed.

But the battle to reduce carbon emissions, a leading cause of climate change according to most scientists, is one that some companies are taking more seriously. Car firms, for example, are committing to ditching petrol- and diesel-only vehicles.

And now one startup is setting out to help companies reduce their energy consumption by switching to LED bulbs.

Light as a service

Founded out of Ireland in 2015, UrbanVolt works with companies such as multinational corporations to help switch commercial buildings to LED lighting — for no immediate upfront cost. And it’s this so-called “light as a service” business model that UrbanVolt and its investors hope will encourage more companies to sign up.

LEDs are said to consume at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, a reduction that will translate into roughly equivalent dollar savings while also reducing carbon emissions. A portion of this cost saving is paid by the corporation to UrbanVolt each year for the first five years, during which time UrbanVolt also maintains the lights.

So UrbanVolt is adopting a model similar to that of the countless “software as a service” companies out there, by transforming LED bulbs from a product into a service. It’s not alone in this, either, as Philips has touted a similar “light as a service” model for several years. But UrbanVolt is going even further, having recently launched a new “solar as a service” model for solar photovoltaic generation, using the same subscription terms.

Today, UrbanVolt announced that it had raised €55 million ($65 million) in funding from U.K. investment firm Low Carbon, which is in addition to the €30 million ($35 million) it raised a couple of years back. The fresh cash injection will be used to grow its business globally, fueled by existing U.S. multinational clients it already has in its native Ireland. These include Pfizer, Zimmer Biomet, Cargotec, and Pipelife, which are now looking to expand the business model to more of their sites around the world.

“This deal will ensure that we can deliver thousands more projects each year,” noted UrbanVolt CEO Kevin Maughan. “In addition, the multi-currency dimension of the financing arrangement is key given that we are working on new projects with a growing list of clients across the U.S. and Europe. In the U.S., there has been huge interest in our ‘off balance sheet’ light as a service offering with larger corporate clients, and our existing projects with Irish-based U.S. multinationals have proved invaluable in demonstrating the effectiveness of UrbanVolt in delivering large scale energy efficiency projects.”

To spearhead its global expansion, which will focus significantly on the U.S., UrbanVolt recently opened new hubs in Chicago and Florida, with plans for a further Californian base in the future.

Manhattan-sized emissions

According to UrbanVolt, the emissions that will be saved as a direct result of its latest investment is the equivalent of “permanently removing” every car that commutes into Manhattan during rush hour. And it’s this kind of data that clearly appealed to its new investor.

“Low Carbon is committed to investing in world class renewable energy solutions which mitigate the negative effects of climate change,” said Low Carbon investment director Dominic Noel-Johnson. “UrbanVolt has developed a leading light as a service delivery model to help companies realize significant savings through energy efficiencies, without incurring any upfront cost. This has important financial benefits, but also ensures businesses are contributing to sustainably reducing their carbon emissions.”

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