Silver Spring-based Clean Currents shuts down operations -- Gazette.Net


Since forming in 2005, Clean Currents has made Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies.

The Silver Spring broker of renewable energy opened a second office in Baltimore and won industry awards.

But that came crashing to a halt Friday when the company faced rapidly escalating wholesale electricity prices and defaulted on payments to PJM Interconnection, which manages the power grid in Maryland and several other states.

Service to Clean Currents’ roughly 15,000 individual and 3,000 business customers will not be impacted since that is being returned to the regular utility such as Pepco, Gary Skulnik, co-founder and president, said on Monday. Customers can seek an alternate third-party electricity supplier.

The situation occurred quickly when the recent polar vortex-induced cold snap sent wholesale prices skyrocketing, Skulnik said. “We tried urgently to get loans and other investors,” he said. “We even looked at being acquired.”

Clean Currents grew out of the county’s incubator system and won the Green Company of the Year award in an annual incubator program sponsored by the state. It was certified as a green business by Montgomery County and others.

From 2009 to 2012, Clean Currents experienced revenue growth of 519 percent to $13.2 million, according to Inc. magazine. That placed the company as the 36th fastest-growing energy business nationally and 32nd fastest overall company in Maryland.

Clean Currents basically operated as a broker of wind power, buying a dollar’s worth of energy supplied through windmills for every dollar a customer consumed from the traditional power grid. Clients included Bethesda-based Congressional Bank and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

“I think we made a difference in being able to use our business as a way to create a greener community,” Skulnik said. “We helped to create a different electricity market, one that is seeing more interest in clean energy.”

He said he has received calls from other energy-related companies interested in hiring some of Clean Currents’ 19 employees, who worked their last day on Friday. He is helping them locate another employer.

“We have such quality people,” Skulnik said. “I don’t think they will have much trouble finding another job.”

He said he is evaluating his options and wants to continue to work in a similar-type business.