Energy Efficiency Markets chooses its favorites of 2008

Jan. 9, 2009
By Reid Smith January 8, 2009 We appreciate the entries submitted for Energy Efficiency Markets’ first annual ‘best of’ contest. It is difficult to select winners in an industry that is burgeoning with innovation. We hope you find our selections as intriguing as we did. Please continue to email us ([email protected]) about interesting projects – […]

By Reid Smith
January 8, 2009

We appreciate the entries submitted for Energy Efficiency Markets’ first annual ‘best of’ contest. It is difficult to select winners in an industry that is burgeoning with innovation. We hope you find our selections as intriguing as we did. Please continue to email us ([email protected]) about interesting projects – we’d like to highlight them periodically in our weekly newsletter:

1. Best appliance: Energy orb

Remember the mood rings we wore as kids? The stone changed color depending on how we felt. Here is a variation on the theme: an orb that signals the energy mood of a building, glowing angry red when energy use is high and green when consumption is low. A kind of smart meter, this crystal ball helped Oberlin College students cut back by 56% on energy use in their dorms. What’s interesting is that the kids don’t pay energy bills – still they responded to the magic ball.

2. Most innovative public policy: Connecticut

Connecticut tends toward gutsy moves when it comes to energy policy. The state is embracing innovation to reduce its electric rates, which hover around the second or third highest in the nation. We like Connecticut’s energy efficiency certificate or “white tag” trading program, which takes a page from the successful renewable energy certificate market now in several states. Companies, colleges, hospitals, factories and others earn the tags or credits for their energy reductions. They then sell credits to utilities or others who need them to meet state energy efficiency mandates.

3. ESCO: CMC Energy Services

The health of any industry depends on truth in advertising. If the efficiency industry overstates what it can achieve, consumers will quickly lose faith. That is why we like the honesty in CMC Energy Services’ Home Energy Tune-uP®. The company calls it a pay-as-you-save residential energy audit program; it identifies the group of improvements in the home that will truly pay for themselves when financed. The whole house audit takes into account how various improvements interact and change your payback. If you install insulation, and you also get a new heat pump, less scrupulous auditors will calculate insulation savings based on your old, inefficient heat pump. That overstates your savings. CMC adjusts its audit to take into account the new heat pump. Consumers get a realistic picture. CMC also uses home inspectors to do the audits, rather than contractors who may have a natural conflict of interest.

4. Demand-response: Energy Curtailment Specialists

The DR market has several emerging players that deserve credit for growing use of the resource. We had a hard time deciding who to choose. We finally selected Energy Curtailment Specialists because of its intelligently packaged “Power Pay.” See for the company’s plain-talk pitch, one that avoids most of the jargon peculiar to demand response programs. FAO Schwarz and the Hyatt Regency are among recent converts to the program.

5. Transportation: Google

Google made a product that is so popular its name has become a commonly used verb. Now the company turns its attention to greening the world. Among other things, Google has a fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) at its Mountain View headquarters for employee use. Following a seven-week experiment, Google announced some impressive performance from its fleet. The PHEVs averaged as much as 93 MPG average across all trips, and 115 MPG on city trips. Will we eventually “PHEV” instead of drive?

6. Green building and construction: Pairing of green energy and efficiency

Here we honor not so much a company but a concept: the efforts by renewable energy companies to get customers to pursue all cost-effective efficiency before buying green energy. For example, California-based3Degrees, which markets renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets, starts by analyzing a building’s carbon footprint. If it finds strong efficiency potential, 3Degress contracts with a third party to take on the project. Chevron Energy Services offers a good example of successfully pairing solar and efficiency at three campuses of Contra Costa Community College. The $35.2 million Northern California project includes a 3.2-MW solar power generation system, efficient lighting and energy management systems, efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, and high-voltage electrical system replacements.

Visit Reid Smith at and pick up his free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

Facebook: Energy Efficiency Markets

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