Understanding recent market trends of the US ESCO industry
The US energy services company (ESCO) industry is an example of a private-sector business model that delivers energy savings to customers primarily through the use of performance-based contracts. US ESCO projects garner significant incremental annual savings: approximately 1% of total US commercial building consumption in 2014. From 2000 to 2011, the industry experienced year over year growth; however, based on information drawn from interviews with ESCO executives conducted in late 2015, the authors find that from 2012 to 2014, ESCO industry revenues did not increase. While public and institutional market sectors accounted for 85% of industry revenue in 2014, consistent with previous research findings, the share of revenue from performance contracting increased to 74% in 2014, as compared to 69% share reported for 2011 and 2008. The revenue numbers between 2011 and 2014 are not fully comparable, because a few ESCOs that were subsidiaries of larger companies had undergone reorganization and some categories of revenue reported in 2011 were not included for 2014. Other factors that may have contributed to the recent revenue trend include the following: (1) increased competition from companies not historically defined as an ESCO (e.g. mechanical contractors), (2) uncertainty among some potential customers about committing to long-term performance contracts, and (3) reduction of performance contracting’s perceived benefit of hedging energy price increases and variability due to customer expectations of continued low and less volatile energy prices.