Energility: An Energy Firm Moved by Faith and Family

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In 2015, Energility was founded on the belief that everyone deserves an energy manager.  With a collaborative and innovative team, their work is dedicated to helping all their clients in energy management.  The firm began by consulting for houses of worship. Their clientele quickly expanded to include other nonprofits, small businesses, and commercial enterprises.  Today, Energility is even consulting with small factories that are often overlooked by the industry.

Energility works personally, collaboratively, and transparently with clients. Their first step of service is to perform an energy audit to assess areas of potential improvement. They understand that the energy audit will include large capital expenses and low cost operational improvements; so they deliver the results as an Energy Plan. Next, rather than offering an Energy Plan outright, Energility meets with the client to discuss their goals and motivations. Energility believes it’s crucial to “meet clients where they’re at,” and tailor their plan of action to the goals of the client.  Finally, Energility helps design and engineer this plan into reality, keeping engaged with clients afterwards to ensure long-term success and satisfaction with their work.

These grassroot heroes that make up the Energility team are devoted to their mission and being there for their clients.

Formative Founders

Energility sprung from two energy-conscious and driven men.  Meet Craig Foster and Justin Kale, the founders of Energility.

“It’s part of my DNA, I guess, to care about sustainability and how we use — and abuse — energy.”  Meet Craig Foster, a Green Energy Ohio (GEO) Board Member and Director of Delivered Services for Energility.  He leads the engineering and technical quality assurance services for Energility clients.

Justin Kale (far left) and Craig Foster (far right) pictured with the Energility team

During his undergraduate career, Craig was a research assistant for a solar thermal project. He describes this role as the moment when he met his first love: solar. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, Craig worked to channel this love into his career.

He moved to Colorado and later worked at Honda, where he was the lead staff for Safety and Environmental issues for 23 years.  Yet, his heart always stayed with solar. So, in 2009 he set out to start his own energy firm servicing places of worship.  Craig missed having a team with a collaborative environment, and when a mutual friend introduced Craig to Justin, he knew he’d found the perfect partner.

Justin, the Director of Opportunity Development at Energility, met Craig from a different background.  He came to Columbus as a 20 year old and worked his way through an engineering team at Hines, a commercial real estate firm.  There, he listened to the wisdom of building operations veterans and learned his way around real estate.  In 2011 when he left the real estate firm and went to work for Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC).  In this consulting position, he learned how to take his real estate knowledge and apply it in a small company format.  All the while he was getting involved in VEIC’s interesting take on energy efficiency and renewables, which they viewed as just another business strategy. 

Justin was moved to start his own business, where he could take his real estate knowledge to make energy efficiency and conservation as applicable practices.  Similarly to Craig, he was involved with places of worship at the time they were introduced.  The two had similar motivations and goals, and from their quick rapport came Energility.

Faith and Family

For it’s founders, the motivation behind such a dedicated firm comes from being rooted in faith and family.

While Craig has dedicated his professional career to his love of solar, he has always had one foot in energy management and the other in religious life.  Since 2007, Craig has worked as an ordained Deacon in the Episcopal Church.  He views his faith as inherent to what he does, both in Energility and through his service ministry. 

Taking that love for solar, Craig devotes his time toward special service ministry projects.  He is a member of Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and mobilize people across all faiths to take bold and just action on climate change.  His current service ministry projects include implementing solar panels in approximately 32 churches from Southern Ohio, as well as using Energility’s work to better the environment.  The audits that Energility produces always include a study for solar energy, and the creation care that stems from Energility’s plans is what fulfills Craig in his work.  “However you see God, in any major religion the god or entity created the universe and told the humans to take care of it. That’s a very motivating factor for me.”

First Presbyterian Church – Athens, the subject of an Energility case study

Justin also finds faith as a motivation for his work.  He believes in including “creation care” — the idea of caring for the environment in the same way that God cares for us — in Energility’s work.  Looking back on his 10-15 year journey leading up to Energility, Justin reflects that a large part of this creation care includes considering the footprints we leave in the world as individuals:  “Not just, how do we do less bad, but do more good and positive things in the world… a part of that is a level of faith that there is something beyond us.”

Yet outside of faith, Justin finds the personal standpoint of family to influence his passion for energy management.  With family members diagnosed with asthma, Justin connected dots with environmental air quality and how practices could be put into place to improve the lives of people and families.  “I wanted to do something where I knew I would make money, but truly benefit the folks I serve by the time I put my head on my pillow.”

Inspiring Success

Their aspirations have certainly come true: Energility has produced over 200 Energy Plans for 8.7 million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings.  Their plans have led to client actions of 152 projects resulting in annual savings of $1.7M and carbon emission reductions of 7,400+ metric tons.  Justin believes their success stems from transparency and making their reports as understandable as possible to the layperson.  By also working with clients through every step of the process including staying engaged up to and after implementation, Energility has helped to facilitate a lot of positive change for clients and for the environment.

Craig and Justin founded Energility knowing their goal wasn’t to make a lot of money.  The goal for their firm is to address climate change and make a living out of it.  The results of their work certainly support this: even amidst COVID, Energility is over its predicted 5-year trajectory.  Looking toward the future, Energility is envisioning growth as a firm, continuing to deliver results for clients, and creating positive creation care based on dedicated energy management.  Craig, Justin, and GEO can’t wait to see where these goals take Energility.

By Courtney VanHuffel