Energy Efficiency is THE Business Opportunity for 2009

Published on December 10th, 2008 | by

OK, that headline is a bold statement, but that was certainly my take-away from an event last night organized by the California Cleantech Open business plan competition.  The event was called a “Green Building Symposium“, and while there were booths manned by winners in this year’s competition who won for building materials and renewable energy solutions (including Bottlestone, S3 (smart shower system) and Red Solar), the topic of the speakers and a panel discussion was energy efficiency.

You can see and hear the presentations for yourself via an archived video. (Hint: You will need the RealPlayer. Click on “Part 1” on that page under the title for the December 9th Green Buildings event, and you’ll want to fast-forward through the video of people filing into the room.)

US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency

The first keynote address was given by Gil Sperling, from the Federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, who announced the signing of a memo of understanding with the California PUC to align programs in support of energy efficiency programs.

The second keynote address was given by Dian Gruenich, Commissioner, California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), who described a year-long process that resulted in a strategy plan, which you can download here (all 110 pages of it) or read an executive summary or fact sheet.  The plan’s goals include requiring all new residential construction in California to be zero net energy efficient by 2020 and for all new commercial construction to be zero net energy efficient by 2030. Read that, opportunities for green building materials, smart meters and efficient cooling systems, better windows and insulation, etc.

Not only do federal and state agencies provide funding for new technologies (including sponsoring the Cleantech Open), but they will also be increasing public education campaigns and rebate/incentive programs to buy energy efficient materials and technology.

And don’t worry about funding going away for these programs due to the California state budget crisis. Check your utility bill. We’re all paying for these programs. If you are in another state, you should be benefiting too because Sperling, who is very new to the DOE, says that his mandate is to “revolutionize energy efficiency programs”.

Following the keynotes, there was a panel discussion moderated by Michael Kanellos, the Editor in Chief of Green Tech Media. The panelists were:
• Jeanne Clinton, Clean Energy Adviser for the CPUC Commercial Sector
• Matt Golden, President, Founder & Chief Building Scientist of Sustainable Spaces
• Paul Holland, General Partner of Foundation Capital
• Steve Selkowitz, Head of the Building Technologies Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
• Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials

There is a reason that the panel on “green building materials” focused so much on energy efficiency. Healthy air from reducing off-gassing materials and allergens and molds is a concern, but for CO2 and energy demand reduction, energy is the big lever to pull. Construction makes up 12 percent of energy use in California and operating buildings takes up 40 percent.

About the Author

A strategy and marketing consultant, Leah enjoys highlighting the efforts of, and providing information for, social entrepreneurs. In her consulting practice, she works with cause-related businesses and enlightened investors--to see people succeed at doing good for the planet and local communities while doing good for themselves. Leah has a B.S. in business from UC Berkeley and an MBA and Certificate of Public Management from Stanford University. More information at