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Data & Cleantech: Fewer Adjectives, More Verbs

Josh Gould

As the many attendees of our recent Cleantech Forum know, the buzz around cleantech for quite some time has been about the convergence of cleantech and data.  All kinds of people – myself included – have described (using adjectives) all the ways in which this will be the next major cleantech wave.  But I wanted to use this post to drop some of the adjectives, and focus on the verbs (the doing).

At our forum, I hosted three panel discussions – each of which touched on specific actions in integrating data into cleantech:

1. Intelligent Buildings

“Version 1.0″ of the intelligent building was about swapping out old, inefficient light fixtures and HVAC systems for newer, more efficient ones.  Certainly 1.0 still has a long ways to go but lighting controls and software companies like Lumenergi, efficiency consulting and implementation firms like Ecos, and traditional HVAC companies like Trane are all increasingly shifting their focus to managing and optimizing data around energy building use, rather than just providing more efficient devices.  

2. Financing Energy Efficiency

Traditional energy efficiency financing is based on the ESCO model.  While certainly a profitable business for companies like Johnson Controls, this model has …

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Powergetics and the rise of the business case

Josh Gould

One of the key trends we’ve seen in cleantech recently is what we call, colloquially, “the rise of the business case.”  When large companies and startups have been able to quantify the benefits of a given investment to customers – providing some sort of financial metric like an IRR, ROI or simple payback period – they have weathered the headwinds of a tough economy.  Examples include large energy services businesses like Johnson Controls, Honeywell, and Schneider Electric.  Startup examples include efficiency-related companies who can quantify their value propositions – names like Scientific Conservation and BuildingIQ in the building, and Lumenergi, Daintree, and Digital Lumens in lighting.

But in energy storage, making a business case can be very hard.  Not only is the data sometimes ambiguous/flawed/non-existent, building that data into a business case is difficult. Energy storage company Ice Energy, for instance, has a link to a 65 page guide for modeling the value proposition for distributed storage on their website.  Grid storage may be even more difficult; to make economic sense a deployment must (almost always) address multiple benefits.  But addressing certain benefits involves the opportunity cost of operating the device in a …

Another win for lighting controls as Redwood closes $15M round

Emma Ritch

Fremont, Calif.-based startup Redwood Systems revealed today it closed a $15 million Series B round for its LED lighting control system, coming on the heels of a $12.7 million Series B for Lumenergi, a lighting controls startup based in nearby Newark, California.

The two companies are illustrative of a fast-growing sub-sector within lighting that’s gaining investor support and market adoption. Lighting controls companies secured 16% of VC investment within lighting from 2005 to 2010, but that’s jumped to 21% in 2009 and 2010 to-date.

Source: Cleantech Group analysis

Why all the interest? Lighting is considered the low-hanging fruit for energy efficiency retrofits, as illumination accounts for  44% of electricity in U.S. office buildings and a quarter of the energy in residential buildings–roughly the same energy consumed by cooling. Lighting controls–including software, sensors, drivers, fixtures, and intelligent ballasts–can maximize energy efficiency of multiple lighting sources, with some vendors claiming up to 75% reduction in energy use due to controls technology.

Redwood offers a unique lighting control system that combines power and control of LEDs over the same low-voltage data cable for office buildings and data centers. While adoption of LEDs is projected to increase to about 80% of the …

Big promises, but can lighting control systems deliver?

Emma Ritch

Lighting control systems are a hot sector within cleantech. The technology holds the promise of up to 75% reduction in energy use with little, if any, change in occupant behavior. Lighting accounts for about 20% of electricity use in the U.S., for example, so adoption of LCS can have a significant impact on worldwide energy consumption and emissions.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Buildings Energy Data Book, Sept. 2008

There is significant buzz around the four startups that have come out of stealth in the past year—Adura Technologies, Redwood Systems, Daintree Networks and Cavet Technologies—as well as startups with slightly longer track records, Encelium Technologies and Starfield Controls. There are numerous other startups we’re tracking with complementary and tangential technology solutions, including Lumenergi, Digital Lumens, Juice Technology, Octus Energy and Echoflex.

ESCOs and major lighting corporations are amongst those in trials with LCS startups, and many LCS solutions are near commercial deployment thanks to the overlap in expertise with the IT sector.

Yet for all this attention, the LCS sector is still very early. Estimates are that fewer than 1% of buildings have advanced LCS installed. And there has been little …