Aaron Wong
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Palo Alto


Palo Alto Sustainable Retail Technology



A hurdle for Palo Alto’s goal for Zero Net Energy compliant commercial buildings is converting small to medium-sized retail-purpose use spaces. The roadblocks for upgrading systems and equipment for energy efficiency include:

  • Relationships: the nature of the relationship between commercial building owners and their retail tenants is at odds with who is accountable for energy-efficiency and who benefits from upgrades. There are few systems or drivers that incentivize or reinforce the sustainable use of retail spaces.

  • Leases: lease agreements determine responsibility for utilities: triple net v.s. gross leases. The lease agreement has an implication on who benefits from energy efficiency upgrades and poses a roadblock because building owners/landlords cannot easily alter the rent structure to charge tenants upfront. Green Leases are required in LEED status buildings, but many small to medium-sized buildings do not pursue LEED status.

  • Building constraints: there are limitations for installations and upgrades depending on building structure in relation to tenants that bear the responsibility for building operations.

  • Capital cost: the upfront cost to install equipment and upgrade systems is high. A typical energy savings project may cost up to $200,000, with rebates typically paying 10-20% of those costs.


Enlighten is a web-based, mobile friendly app that allows users to complete energy efficency assessments through an easy to use interface. The app is designed to curate options for energy efficiency upgrades and installation, including funding resources. Curating information and options for smaller retail tenants and their landlords allow users to benefit from the resources typically reserved for larger commercial real estate owners and developers and retail chains. Enlighten serves to close the gap between the energy efficiency requirements of the City of Palo Alto and its small to medium-sized commercial buildings used for retail. This customer segment faces barriers to implementing energy efficiency actions; Enlighten addresses the "customer pain" of not having the information, resource, and expertise to upgrade energy systems and hardware (retrofit) in a manner that is cost-effective and compliant with city requirements.


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