cleantech insights

How Behavioral Science Can Increase Energy Efficiency Adoption

Sam Shrank

Since setting up auto-pay the day I moved into my apartment, I’ve given no thought to my utility bill. Given that my job is to analyze and advise utilities, I’d venture to say most people are no more engaged. However, with an evolving set of customer offerings—energy efficiency (EE), alternative fuel vehicles, demand response, and the like—many utilities are realizing that they may require better, different, or more communication. In short, they are discovering what it means to sell.

And not only are they beginning to market things customers may not feel they need, they now have competitors as well, particularly in the EE market. Various other entities are looking to advise large electricity and gas users about how to lower their bills and provide help with financing, sell devices directly to customers that increase automation and control, or take over the utility’s role as the provider of EE offerings funded through utility bill surcharges. All of these reduce both the direct benefit to utilities from performance incentives and the indirect benefits from higher customer satisfaction, improved regulatory relationships, and perceived leadership.

Mining the extensive body of knowledge on consumer behavior provides insight on how utilities can more effectively communicate …


Digital Solutions to Building Efficiency: Exploring a Cleantech VC Bright Spot

kerry cebul

The preliminary release of our 2Q12 numbers confirmed what many have been talking about for months…significantly lower global cleantech VC investment by both deal count and dollar amount.

Yet, the Energy Efficiency sector remains a bright spot amidst the gloomy discussions of shakeouts and a transition away from the term “cleantech.” And, as both VCs and corporate strategics reassess the broader cleantech landscape and refine their approaches, there is renewed interest in understanding the potential of this continuing bright spot. As Rob Day of Black Coral Capital put it in this great review of the numbers yesterday, “even while the overall cleantech sector is in a down period, it’s clearly still an exciting time to be investing in energy efficiency and related plays.”

Within energy efficiency, digital solutions to building efficiency continues to be a particular area of investor and entrepreneur interest. From enterprise energy management and lighting control systems, to remote auditing and benchmarking, entrepreneurs and investors are developing scalable digital solutions to tackle the building efficiency market. Some of the industry’s hottest companies like Redwood Systems, Gridium, Adura Technologies, Vigilent and essess have raised recent rounds from some of the industry’s top investors including Draper …

The Internet of (Big) Things

Greg Neichin

Those of us fond of exploring the world of emerging opportunities at the intersection of cleantech and computing power often talk about the Internet of Things.  When he first coined the term in 1999, Kevin Ashton prophetically wrote:

If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.

I share Kevin’s sentiment that the Internet of Things has the potential to be world changing, but I find it is increasingly important to define what “things” we are talking about.  The world is obviously full of inanimate machines from huge to microscopic and tracking all of these disparate devices would require varying levels of investment, networks, and data crunching capabilities.

The topic was on my mind this week as I reflected on two new deals we tracked in i3 that represented opposite ends of the …

Cleanweb NYC Hackathon: Top 3 Unsung Winners

Greg Neichin

On the same weekend that the Giants broke the 49ers hearts, Sunil Paul playfully added some insult to injury in the bicoastal rivalry by declaring, “New York has stepped up with an event [cleanweb hackathon] that is, dare I say, bigger than San Francisco.”  And while, as a true bicoastal executive, I have no interest in stoking the cliché Silicon Valley v. Silicon Alley fire, we can safely say that New York represented this past weekend.

The New York cleanweb hackathon organizers, which included Sunil, Blake Burris of Dynamo Labs, Micah Kotch from NYC ACRE, Nicholas Eisenberger of Pure Energy Partners, Matt Solt of Civvic, and a number of others, put on a great show and took a big step forward in evangelizing the cleanweb movement.  Judging by the turnout, the “cleanweb”, the increasingly popular term for applying IT solutions to global resource constraint problems, is a hit amongst the East Coast digerati (even meriting an appearance by NYC’s trendminting venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who had previously cast off cleantech as an entirely separate form of VC).

There were a number of awards presented at the end of the event to standout teams (check …

AlertMe, Lowe’s, and the role of retail channels in the smart grid

Tatum Nolan

AlertMe’s recent announcement of its partnership with Lowe’s marks an important milestone in the industry’s efforts to extend smart grid functionality to end users. The partnership could represent a new strategy for companies with good channel access to customers.

For the last few years, home energy management system (HEMS) vendors have debated whether customer-facing smart grid technology should reach homes by way of top down utility deployments, or by way of retail channels. Each strategy has presented opportunities and obstacles: The top down approach would guarantee mass deployment, but utilities have generally moved slowly in rolling out hardware-based solutions to customers.  By contrast, if consumers could select their own HEMS through retailers, early adoption would drive innovation and lead to market-based (rather than utility-selected) winners and losers, but utility integration would not be assured. The announcement of this partnership, combined with Best Buy’s own commitment to selling HEMS products, indicate that retailers are staking a claim to this market.

But Lowe’s consumer smart grid strategy differs from Best Buy’s. Rather than providing a market place for various HEMS products from vendors such as Tendril, EnergyHub, or Control4, Lowe’s has announced that it will sell its own solution, …

Schneider Electric’s Indian Shopping Spree

David Cheng

At Cleantech Group, we spend much of our time featuring the most innovative cleantech companies with the most important technologies and business models.  Some of these companies are found down the street from us, some are embedded in one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies and some may be founded by entrepreneurs and climate scientists in the UK.  But sometimes, the most interesting things in cleantech can be coming out of a 175-year old French company.  This is the story behind Schneider Electric‘s recent moves in cleantech, particularly on the smart grid and energy efficiency side.…

Yoga Systems: The Tendril/Control4 of Estonia

David Cheng

Building energy management hardware may be unfairly maligned by the pundits because of the sticker price.  The inconvenient truth of building energy management is that hardware matters.  It turns out in order to have the cool cloud-based services analyzing, controlling and optimizing the building’s end devices, those devices need to be connected in some way to an IP backbone either through external controllers or embedded RF modules.  And even then, they might have to go through a central server that manages these RF signals.  Estonia-based Yoga Systems is looking to solve this problem by being the “Tendril or Control4” of the EU with a turnkey building management solution for commercial and residential buildings.  Their big push is to be a cloud-based platform for a smörgåsbord of proprietary and third-party devices and applications in the building.…

Making Building Management Point & Click Simple

Greg Neichin

I wrote a passionate piece last week about concerns raised by some in the Israeli startup world that the country’s venture investors had hit a bit of a fundraising drought.  In this week’s pitch of the week, I’m going to focus on the key reason why this drought should be remedied – namely, that Israel has a whole lot of cutting edge entrepreneurs!

This week our spotlight is on TriDiNetworks, an Israeli-based company that presented as part of the dealflow showcase at our recent Amsterdam Forum.  Founded in 2007, TriDiNetworks is working to simplify the deployment and maintenance of controls networks within the built environment.  We have written extensively in the past about the efficiency opportunity within commercial buildings and there is no shortage of both global, incumbent players and well-financed startups diving into the market.

TriDiNetworks has a unique value proposition as an enabling technology.  The company’s pointed focus is on reducing the setup time and costs associated with configuring sensor networks. The company does not compete with established equipment vendors, but rather works in partnership with these systems to facilitate more efficient roll-out.  “Efficient” in the context of network deployments means simplifying the technical competency required for …

All of the Lights: Not LEDs, says Lumiette

Josh Gould

Even those with only cursory exposure to the lighting industry have heard about LEDs (light-emitting diodes).  Extremely energy efficient and manufactured in a process analogous to semi-conductors, LEDs have spawned a tremendous amount of corporate activity – from heavyweights like Philips making major LED pushes, to high profile startups like Bridgelux and Lemnis Lighting (all of which we cover in our lighting industry analysis here).

But despite all the LED hype – which is particularly strong here in an innovation hub like Silicon Valley – has anyone stopped to recognize that over 80% of the installed base of lights are still “old school” fluorescents and incandescents?  And have all those LED enthusiasts encountered some of the (admittedly debatable) complaints about LED light color and quality?  Further, does anyone realize that the biggest ESCOs like Johnson Controls are still almost entirely swapping old fluorescent fixtures for newer ones, instead of installing LEDs or fancy lighting controls systems?

Lumiette is a Silicon Valley based flourescent lighting startup playing to these contrarian facts.  Founded in 2007 by lighting and semiconductor industry veterans, the company has IP around an ultra-efficient, flat panel lamp with cathodes on the exterior; moving the electrode

SenseLogix: Plugging the Energy Management Gap


While the fully automated house remains a pipe dream of home energy management, energy efficiency in office buildings has progressed to the development of building management systems (BMS). Building Management Systems are centralised, programmed specifically for the needs of their building and have traditionally managed HVAC, along with lighting and access control more recently.  While these systems allow much of a buildings energy use to be centrally controlled, they cannot control plug-in devices. They are also inflexible, as adapting to changes in a building’s use after BMS installation requires expensive servicing from a programmer and so are not frequently updated.

Currently the most common answer to the challenge of saving energy in plug-in appliances is discrete plug-in control devices, for example timers. These share none of the drawbacks of BMS as they are easily to implement and adapt and are not limited to HVAC and lighting energy savings. However these plug-in devices also share none of BMS’s advantages, as they cannot be coordinated across a building and are easily stolen, making them inappropriate for education and public access settings.

In May 2009 SenseLogix was founded with the aim of filling this gap between BMS and discrete plug-in controls and providing …