The utility company of the future will be an energy bank, enabling customers to cash-in on unused electric capacity by making it available to other customers who need it. Utilities will be the intermediary facilitating the transaction and reducing energy waste in the process.
So believes SaLisa Berrien, a Bethlehem native, 1987 Allen High School graduate, former PPL Corp. engineer and now an entrepreneur who launched a startup called COI Energy Services in early 2016.
Based at the University of South Florida’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, COI Energy offers software that helps utility companies take full advantage of smart grids, or electrical supply networks that can react to patterns and changes in energy usage.
This past week, Berrien submitted patent paperwork for the COI Energy Optimizer. Her signature technology is a digital portal that makes it easy for commercial customers to communicate with their utility, and allows utilities to better manage demand response, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
She calls it the “Uber of Energy.”
COI’s first 16 months have been equal parts exhilarating and scary for Berrien, a successful mechanical engineer and businesswoman who has spent her entire career in the energy sector. New challenges have included keeping her perfectionism in check, knowing when to seek financing and determining the trustworthiness of potential partners.
As CEO, Berrien has has embraced those challenges and says she’s surrounded herself with people who share a vision of Tampa as the next big technology hub. She lives in Tampa, but until April owned a home in Upper Macungie and still returns to the Lehigh Valley regularly.
“I think we’re building something great here, and I want to be part of the story,” she said.