Partner Voices: From illumination to EV charging with Commercial Lighting's Dustin Paul

The Business of Charging | 7/1/2021


Team ChargePoint

Dustin Paul, principal at Commercial Lighting Products

In a continued effort to showcase ChargePoint momentum and partnerships in Canada, we checked in with Dustin Paul, principal at Commercial Lighting Products. The 40-year-old company, founded by Dustin’s father and a business partner from Calgary, began as a wholesale lighting distributor and evolved over time to also focus on energy management as customers began looking for ways to save energy and take advantage of the various Hydro incentive programs across Canada.

Today, Commercial Lighting helps enterprise organizations, including residential and commercial property management companies, industrial manufacturers and municipalities across western Canada, devise energy-efficiency solutions that go beyond illumination to address electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure — including ChargePoint stations.

Coming from the lighting world, how did you begin selling EV chargers?

Because energy management has been a growing concern for decades now, we had to learn how to speak the language in order to stay competitive — and we were happy to incorporate various technologies into our vocabulary. The move from incandescent lamps to selling energy management solutions was a gradual but consistent shift. Customers now turn to us for our expertise in the energy management space, whether it’s EV or LED.

We’ve simply grown as our customers’ interest in energy has grown. Back in the 80s and 90s, that meant helping organizations transition from incandescent lighting to CFLs. Today we’re helping people retrofit their energy panels to not only accommodate more energy-efficient lighting solutions but also to make room for EV charging.

EV charging really was the natural next step in terms of energy management consulting. With our many years of expertise around electrical capacity, we were able to understand the energy requirements and technical capabilities of the stations themselves in relation to a particular customer's needs. Today we would never retrofit a company’s lighting strategy without making room on the electric panel for EV charging.

Was that transition overwhelming after so many years of primarily focusing on lighting?

Ten years ago, I would never have imagined we’d be talking to customers about EV chargers. But it really comes down to our capacity to learn and relearn our business. We may have had a lot to learn, but you know, anything worth doing is worth putting in the time and energy to do it well.

So we began by learning everything we could about the technology — even the ChargePoint app. Once I began to understand the technologies better and all the benefits to end users, that’s when I started to get really excited about the opportunity. I was able to connect the dots between manufacturer, distributor and end user as it relates to the challenge of bolstering the electrical infrastructure to not only save energy but to accommodate a customer’s EV fleet.

ChargePoint charging station in a parking garage

So when did you start working with ChargePoint?

As the energy management conversation with our customers evolved, we realized we could add further value by providing the charging product as well as the electrical consultation. We recognized you guys as a national brand so we reached out about building a distributor relationship, and everything just blossomed from there.

And two years later, how's it going?

We’re seeing green shoots everywhere. The timing was fantastic in terms of the national emergence of EVs. Even two years ago, we were mostly getting questions about EVs from early adopters. Now groups from all along the EV adoption spectrum are reaching out and asking for help with their energy management strategy. Many already have an idea of what they are interested in. So I would say it's going very well.

What are the top requirements your customers come to you with?

Our customers want to know what technologies are out there, how adding EV charging can make sense for their business and how they can integrate EV charging into their building’s current infrastructure. We usually start with an analysis of the common area to determine the kind of logistical or electrical issues they might have, and then devise a strategy for that particular space. Many of our customers are not so much trying to understand how to enter the space, but they are asking for help in achieving a certain level of infrastructure to accommodate the rise in EV drivers.

What’s the future look like for Commercial Lighting in terms of the EV charging space in Canada and the particular market you serve?

What I see is an emerging technology that is very transformative. The electric grid in Canada, as it stands, is not up to speed in terms of what's coming, and I think that presents a real challenge. In addition, the energy profile of many Canadians is really high. So the challenge is to invest in our economy in such a way that we can reap the benefits of emerging green tech. Electric vehicles and EV charging are some of the technologies that can help us bring down those high energy envelopes.

Two ChargePoint chargers in a garage

Also Commercial Lighting is dedicated to evolving as the technology evolves. If we have learned anything, it’s that nothing stays the same. I’m especially interested in the way cloud services relate to the driver experience, and the way the software is embedded into certain vehicles now. That's a fantastic step; it really is groundbreaking. You get somebody who’s new to the space, who turns on their new EV and finds an easy button they can select to get directions to a ChargePoint charger — I mean, that's brilliant stuff.

I think we're still in the very early stages of what’s possible on the cloud innovation side. So as it relates to Commercial Lighting, our promise is to stay as close to that evolution as possible so that we're well-versed enough to translate the benefits of those new technologies to our customers. And because ChargePoint and Commercial Lighting are so aligned, I see a real bright future in terms of working together to bolster the Canadian infrastructure.

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