IN THE LEAD 2016

Profile: Kyle O'Connor is simplifying a complex energy market




Assuming the role this spring of chief executive at kWantera Inc., Kyle O’Connor’s CEO title could easily have another meaning as well: chief explaining officer.

Mr. O’Connor, a “born and bred” Pittsburgher who came home after nine years of climbing the ladder at General Electric, is making the bet that he can help scale up the predictive analytics company that markets energy management software and services to large consumers of electricity and natural gas across the U.S. 

And that requires an increasingly short elevator pitch, particularly for large commercial and industrial customers who haven’t traditionally thought of energy use as a way to save money. “It’s a challenge,” he acknowledges.

Mr. O’Connor enters the picture as kWantera — after nearly a decade of evolution from its founding as Mobile Fusion, a military contractor — is looking to accumulate customers. The need to explore the complex inner workings could explain the countless whiteboards adorning the exposed brick walls of the Cigar Factory building in the Strip District where kWantera is based. 

Armed with kWantera’s recommendations, Mr. O’Connor said, energy consumers and producers can parlay a more risky situation into big savings. While consumers may feel safe locking in a fixed rate, chances are they’re missing out on the next day’s variable rate, which could be lower.

Similarly, a power generator may be tempted to sell power at the real-time price to make money today, but it could very well get a better deal to sell it tomorrow. 

The Strip District company has built a forecasting model that analyzes weather forecasts, load, power plant outages and past prices, Mr. O’Connor said. It then tailors that data for each individual customer or producer.

“If you watch where prices have gone in the last hour, 2 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, you can predict with a high level of confidence what’s going to happen next,” he said. 

So far, kWantera snagged two major boosts to its credibility: an investment in December 2014 from General Electric, which initially brought kWantera to Mr. O’Connor’s attention; and the addition to the company’s board of Jon Wellingoff, the outspoken former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

Daniel Moore: dmoore@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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