Steve Hightower recently launched an energy efficiency business that he already plans to expand to at least two major U.S. cities in the near future.
Located at 3577 Commerce Drive in Middletown, HP Energy assists businesses in reducing costs through cutting energy consumption and enhancing the operating and financial performance of their existing buildings
Hightower, whose Middletown-based company Hightowers Petroleum is the Tri-State’s largest minority-owned business, serves as president and chairman of the board.
He had help in the entrepreneurial endeavor. Environmental consultant John Picard, the company’s chief technology officer, and sustainability company founder Tim Donovan, HP Energy’s CEO, are co-founders.
“We didn’t invent the concept for energy efficiency,” Hightower said. “What we’ve done is put together a sustainability company that offers facilities the ability to reduce their overall operating cost through technologies, something that we call the fifth fuel.”
“The fifth fuel is energy that you don’t actually ever have to use,” he said.
As he sought out energy alternatives in which to involve himself over the years, Hightower said he was “very skeptical” when it came to wind, solar and other more traditional energy sources currently in the market.
For too long, businesses have relied on coal, petroleum, nuclear and alternatives to meet energy demand, he said. Delivering “the fifth fuel” helps businesses reduce costs by cutting energy consumption and enhancing the operating and financial performance of their existing buildings.
Hightower credits Picard, who he called “a guru in the green space” and one of the top sustainability experts in the world, as a major contributor in HP Energy’s conception.
“I was convinced that this was a space that if I had that type of expertise along with what our market consists of, in terms of our customer base, and knowing the opportunity in the broader marketplace that this would be the space that I should be playing in,” he said.
Hightower established a working relationship with Picard in August 2011, and HP Energy incorporated in February and launched in in June.
Naming a CEO like Donovan, who had served as director of strategy and marketing performance for BP and worked alongside Picard, allowed Hightower and Picard to “push the company forward in a very deliberate and organized manner.”
The markets that benefit the most from HP Energy’s services are commercial office space, retail space and industrial space
“There’s no facility that operated on a very high energy basis that you can think of that would not benefit from the breadth of technologies that HP Energy is able to bring to the table.”
Middletown has five LEED certified buildings and another, Aldi’s Market, built to green standards but not certified, said Denise Hamet, the city’s economic development director. LEED is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability.
“In addition to providing jobs and offering a new service that will help our businesses lower their operating costs, the HP Energy venture adds a new dimension to the city’s focus on sustainability and strategic energy innovation,” Hamet said. “Having a business of this nature headquartered the city puts Middletown on the map as a growing hub of innovation; it strengthens community resources; and it provides students the opportunity to grow through internships and co-op opportunities.”
Besides its headquarters in Middletown, HP Energy also has an office in Silicon Valley, Calif., which allows it to provide clients access to the latest technology in smart windows, lighting, lighting controls, plug load management and distributed generation.
Also on board from HP Energy’s conception has been Hightower’s son, Stephen Hightower II, who serves as vice president of development and works with the supply chain, as well.
HP Energy already is looking to open offices in Atlanta and New York City in the near future, areas that all three men have existing business relationships and a knowledge of what businesses need.
In addition, those cities have “very large square footage” in retail, office and industrial space, making them prime candidates for energy savings.
“It’s really customer driven that’s demanding that we be in those areas,” he said.
HP Energy employs 45 people in all, 28 of them in Middletown.
Hightower predicts the marketplace will start to hear more and more about sustainability and that HP Energy will be at the forefront of delivering the fifth fuel, Hightower said.
“We’re nimble and we have resources unmatched by some of the very large competitors, such as Siemens, Johnson Controls and others that operate in this space,” he said.