Thielsch Engineering is an Employee Stock Owned company (ESOP) with total employment of almost 500 full-time and 50 part-time/seasonal employees – almost $160 million in 2016 revenue. RISE accounts for 315 direct employees and about $121 million in 2016 revenue, with offices in:
- Cranston, RI
- Cape Cod, Canton, and Springfield, MA
- Southern NH
- Albany and Brooklyn, NY
RISE has evolved as the only provider of efficiency services for existing buildings on a wide scale to all customer segments (1-4 family, multifamily, small business, and larger commercial/industrial/institutional/government) in the region. The same 3 elements that were the basis for its foundation (accurate on-site analyses, installation assistance, and access to resources to make improvements affordable) continue to characterize almost everything RISE offers. Many of the same initiatives for targeted customer segments from programs originating in the early 1990’s are still delivered by RISE today for those same entities, although program designs and technologies have changed. The ramp-up in New England and New York efficiency programs during the 2008-2015 has been a big impetus for RISE’s recent growth.
RISE has grown to be a leading provider of efficiency services on regional level, competing with other players for utility program contracts. With utility restructuring/mergers in the forefront and since the company was fully self-governing, RISE Board of Directors decides to allow RISE to go private through a public sales process. Thielsch Engineering, a Cranston-based engineering company with many power generation plants as its clients, acquires RISE in July, 1995, as a strategy to provide services on both the generation and efficiency side of the utility business. RISE is renamed “RISE Engineering”. Proceeds from the sale to Thielsch are donated to create a “RISE Conservation Fund” at the RI Foundation that continues to fund energy efficiency work by non-profits in RI.
Electric utility Least Cost Planning and demand side management activities accelerate in New England, and several utilities issue competitive solicitations for firms to provide services. RISE starts to provide services in neighboring states in addition to RI, as firms with retail companies in multiple states hire RISE based on its successful experiences in RI. In light of the multi-state operations, “Rhode Islanders Saving Energy” is dropped, and the company simply uses “RISE” to do business;
For the first time, RI utilities started to piggyback direct install services onto the audit programs and RISE hired staff to perform installations directly – e.g., Narragansett electric installed water heater wraps, and DHW measures for over 10,000 households with electric water heaters;
Federal rules adopted to expand requirements to include multifamily and C/I buildings; RI programs expanded accordingly, with RISE as the vehicle;
Energy Office secures HUD Solar and Energy Conservation bank funds to allow for a wide-scale financing and grant program that jump started the level of improvements that were being made. RCS program provided the umbrella for the delivery of services. HUD Solar Bank funds were later supplemented by “oil overcharge” funds, allowing financing for residential and C&I to last until 1994;
RI Residential Conservation Service (RCS) launched – $1.5 million budget, 11,000 energy audits in first year. RISE Board of Directors became heavily dominated by RI utility executives. RISE staff performed administration, audits, and post-install inspections – independent subcontractors provided installations;
After considerable hearings and negotiation, agreement reached between RI State Energy Office, RI utilities, RI PUC, and RISE that RISE would be the joint vehicle in RI to meet the utilities’ obligations under the federal act. In return, utilities were allowed cost recovery thru a surcharge on gas and electric bills
At the same time, action was happening on the federal level, including passage of the National Energy Act of 1978 required states to develop plans that would require their regulated utilities to offer these efficiency services to residential customers;
An Energy Subcommittee of a State of RI Business-Labor-Government partnership develops concept of a one-stop non-profit service (Rhode Islanders Saving Energy – RISE) designed to:
- Help consumers identify opportunities to reduce energy use with an in-home “audit”;
- Arrange for the installation of improvements in a professional manner with full guarantees;
- Arrange for access to financing and other incentives (e.g. tax credits) to help make improvements affordable.
Seed money provided by a loan guaranteed by the firms on the Energy Subcommittee: Textron, Industrial National (now Bank of America), Providence Gas (now National Grid), Kates Financial, and others. Attracted considerable attention in US and Canada as a model private sector solution to a public policy problem (was model for formation of Mass Save in MA and Conn Save in CT)
- Rapidly escalating energy costs
- Building stock that was built in times of inexpensive energy
- Many opportunities to reduce energy use, but wild claims in market and lack of credible resource for consumers and businesses to trust