Quarterly Exchange | Corporate Profile | October 2018

Solving a utility cost inequity
The Onyx Energy solution brings fairness and environmental awareness to utility bills
One way to build a path to business success is to identify a genuine need, and create a solution to that need. Another, in this era, is to find a way to reduce the environmental impact of an industry or service.

 Angel-Marie Reiner and her team at Onyx Energy believe they have accomplished both of these goals. And that has meant early and growing success for the young enterprise.

Angel-Marie Reiner

First, the need: Angel-Marie’s husband, Eric Reiner, is a commercial real estate agent, and owner and operator of Onyx’s sister company, Onyx Property Group. The couple represents over 20 years of experience in multi-family real estate, student housing, property development and ownership, property management and consulting.

What their experience had identified was a glaring inequity in how occupants in such multi-residence and condo developments are charged for their utility usage.

Angel-Marie explains that there are two traditional models. Either the management company averages out utility cost across all units and builds that into the rent; or the management company averages out the costs, and charges a separate flat fee to all occupants, regardless of their actual usage. And, either way, neither of these billing methods are fair, argues Onyx Energy’s President. And that’s not the only problem – neither of them offer any incentive to occupants to reduce their utility usage… and that is bad news on the environmental front.

Angel-Marie decided to launch Onyx Energy. The corporate website explains, “Our business model is quite simple. We provide a turn-key solution that offers owners, developers and condominium boards the ability to recoup the costs associated with various utilities. This in turn educates occupants to make wise decisions regarding consumption and empowers occupants to improve and offset their carbon footprint.”
In their research prior to launching Onyx Energy, the Reiners discovered some interesting anomalies in utility use. They found that actual consumption was hard to predict, because people simply don’t fit into stereotypes. 

The Reiners also discovered that when people are actually paying for their real consumption, not simply an average for their building, their consumption changes, often dramatically. “When someone has to pay for their own utilities,” they found, “their cost comes down 20 to 27%!”

The system created by Onyx Energy can monitor water, gas, electricity, and thermal energy consumption

Onyx is not the only player in this industry, but Angel-Marie believes “we have a better plan. It’s unique. We bring more to the average consumer.” That something “more” includes a carbon offset feature, developed by Onyx. And in September, the Onyx team will celebrate this feature with a large tree planting ceremony in Waterloo Region – the first of many, she says.

Further, what differentiates Onyx Energy from their competitors, is their leak detection system, allowing Owners and Property Managers the ability to remotely turn water on and off when system detects a water issue.  As noted by Angel-Marie, “this feature, stops water before it becomes destructive, in doing so, Occupants do not need to be displaced from their homes, owners of properties avoid expenses of insurance deductibles, which for commercial properties start at $25,000 and this also avoids additional expenses relating to repairs and lost of personal property”. 

  The system created by Onyx Energy can monitor water, gas, electricity, and thermal energy consumption, and includes alarm and shut-off features that can be activated through a smart phone.

 Ideally, the system will be installed in new buildings, an “easy” process, according to Angel-Marie. “But we also do retrofit,” she points out.  

The Reiners’ road to Onyx Energy has not been an easy one. In November, 2016 – less than two years ago – Onyx Property Group was completing a mixed-use, primarily residential building at 659 Stirling Avenue South, in Kitchener. Today, the ground floor is headquarters to Onyx Energy. The Reiners were in the midst of launching Onyx Energy.

Today, Onyx Energy has six employees and three contractors, while Onyx Property Group employs up to 10.

And then, on November 23, 2016, Eric suffered heart failure, which resulted in several blood clots that had to be removed with emergency surgery. Angel-Marie’s first priority was her husband’s health. But as soon as she knew he was going to recover – albeit through a long process – she knew she had other responsibilities, as well.

“I managed to get this building finished, get Onyx Energy started all from his bedside in the hospital, and care for my husband,” she recalls. Which may tell you everything you need to know about the capacity of the Onyx Energy President.

 When it comes to her personal job description, she is a visionary: “I’m creating a legacy for my own family. I’m able to be part of the lives of my team, and to reward them for their efforts and their commitment. It’s extraordinarily rewarding.”

Today, Onyx Energy has six employees and three contractors, while Onyx Property Group employs up to 10.

 “We have decided to focus on Southwestern Ontario,” says Angel-Marie – and is involved in promoting their innovation to other developers. “We are in aggressive promotion mode,” she says. “There is still some education that has to happen.”

Angel-Marie says that, in their experience so far, when occupants understand the value of the new system “we get rapid acceptance.”

Onyx is also in aggressive innovation mode; while their software development is currently handled by a separate, area firm, they plan to incorporate that part of the business into Onyx, next year. They are members of Communitech. 

There is one other key feature to the Onyx solution: the Onyx team communicates directly with occupants in buildings that adopt their solution, responding to individual issues, educating them about their carbon footprint, and offering tips on lowering monthly utility costs.

Angel-Marie says that, in their experience so far, when occupants understand the value of the new system “we get rapid acceptance.”

Builders and developers who partner with Onyx will find fairly rapid return on investment, says Angel-Marie. One option is essentially a lease-to-buy arrangement in which the developer pays no money down.

 The other option is for the building owner to purchase the monitoring equipment, and to be able to keep all revenue arising from the system.

Angel-Marie admits there is an ironic twist to her own energy monitoring story. Earlier this year, “we had a flood in our basement,” and it wasn’t noticed because they did not have a monitor in their own home.  “The irony,” she says, “is just unreal.”

“But we do have a monitoring system now,” she adds with a rueful smile. And, she believes, so should everyone – a conviction born from both personal experience and business acumen. 

659 Stirling Ave. S. #100
Kitchener, ON N2M OB1
T 266.349.6699 ext. 208

Publisher is Exchange Business Communication Inc.
No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher or Onyx Energy.

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ISSN 0824-45
Copyright, 2018.

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