Image by George Dearing via Flickr
With dwindling resources and tight budgets, local governments might not be the first place to look if you’re a startup pitching clean technology. The data tells a different story, however.
An April survey of almost 400 mayors in all 50 states, showed 75% of cities plan to increase cleantech deployments over the next five years.
Some of the key findings paint a vivid picture of what’s motivating the heads of city.
For starters, energy efficiency, while it may lack green glamour, is an immediate win. Cities are realizing that efficiency retrofits using better automation tools and dashboards are sending savings right to the bottom line. In other words, smarter buildings are becoming the norm for smarter companies.
• LED and other efficient lighting (76%), low-energy building technologies(68%), and solar systems to generate electricity (46%) are the top three choices among mayors as the most promising technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
On Wednesday, the Cleantech Group released its investment numbers for Q1 showing energy efficiency was the growth highlight, even as overall investments dipped more than 30% for the period.
“Our global VC numbers point to continued strength in energy efficiency, which tops the charts in both amount invested and deal count,” said CEO Sheeraz Haji, in a prepared statement.
Another key finding in the mayors’ report was related to climate change, showing one in three cities have already configured its effects into capital planning and capital improvement programs.
That should signal a strong opportunity for startups offering cleantech and renewable solutions. Corporations will be bulking up to serve local governments as they look for technology support and infrastructure upgrades. Young companies offering sustainability software, smart grid tools and of course IT-driven solutions are poised to capture significant business. To achieve that, startups need to dig deep to understand what’s really driving local governments to adopt a resilience strategy. Ironically, it seems, cities might ultimately lead much of the activity taking place around ‘adaptation.’
“While 86 percent of the companies surveyed said that investing in adaptation solutions is a viable business opportunity, less than one-third are taking action to build climate resilience in the communities where they operate.”
The Central Texas Connection
At the ATC’s CEO Summit in May, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell mentioned a number of things that puts Austin in the center of many of the reported trends. During his presentation, he mentioned Life Sciences and clean energy as two of the biggest areas of job growth in Austin.
The mayor stressed better transportation and resource management, emphasizing sustainable energy approaches and better water management. In a matter-of-fact manner, Leffingwell told more than a hundred CEOs, “those are things you have to plan for 50 years down the road.”
Stratfor’s CEO and author George Friedman, who also spoke at the conference, said attracting R&D centers for industries like biotech and life sciences would be critical for cities like Austin.
“Don’t become silicon hills — attract industries like biotech — it’s important to know who your target is,” he said.
A neighboring Austin community is showing how that’s done.
The Pflugerville Community Development Corp. has a deal in place with local electric vehicle (EV) company Community Cars Inc. If the EV company meets certain commitments for establishing its local presence, more than $100,ooo in funds will be available to the Austin company founded last year by Austin attorney Stacy Zoern.
These types of initiatives show what can be achieved when local officials have a proactive approach towards cleantech. They’re already trying to lure startups to city centers, so why not go the extra mile to ensure it’s a sustainable choice for long-term growth? That’s a win for everyone.
There’s some good stuff coming out of the GridWise Gloabl Forum, particularly insight from some of the larger vendors. IBM’s chief Sam Palmisano says IBM is taking its own reigns and pushing standards and getting others involved around the smart grid supply chain. Just as important, was Palmisano’s declaration that everyone needs to take the initiative, regardless of how policy and markets are being shaped.
“Palmisano said that making the energy system smarter is in everyone’s interest because it addresses the economy, geopolitical issues related to energy, and global climate change. People in industry do not need to wait for the government or other top-down directives to get started, he said.”
One of the other notable comments was Palmisano’s opposition to consumer ‘dashboards’ – commonly mentioned as a web-based way for utility customers to easily view energy consumption.
That could be taken a couple of ways. One, it’s right in line with the piecemeal approach that IBM criticizes. Some of us early adopters might salivate at all that data at our fingertips, but most people have enough real life and virtual dashboards already, so thinking that’s a silver bullet is pretty naive.
Ultimately, providers will have to render data and usage around the way all of us realistically use data and information, probably starting with bits and pieces online (next to our statements) and on mobile devices.
Anything relegated as another online silo and not incorporated around larger usage patterns will die on the vine. Unfortunately in my experience, utility companies don’t do a very good job at things like bill presentment and online customer service. Clearly, those are some of the things that get companies like Big Blue excited.
Let’s hope others join Big Green, um, Big Blue.
Image via Wikipedia
The Boston Consulting Group released the results of a new survey earlier today that sheds light on how smart meters are being used – or not.
It surveyed 1,700 U.S. consumers and surfaced information that should be gold to utility companies. From the BCG release:
“BCG survey found that 66 percent of U.S. consumers said that they would like more communication from their utility on smart meters. And less than 30 percent could recall any outreach from their utility beyond the monthly bill.”
Sound familiar? Strikingly for us. Our old utility company was really adept at finding our inbox for payment reminders, but woefully inept at being proactive about things like better energy tracking or consumption tips.
Among other data, the captain obvious nugget that jumped out was the stat showing 66% of consumers thought real-time data could help them effectively manage energy usage. Hello local utility company, meet Mrs. Opportunity.
Three-quarters of U.S. consumers are interested in easy ways to save power, and two-thirds said that being able to estimate their monthly energy bill on a daily basis would help them better manage their power usage, according to the survey. Yet fewer than half said that they have heard of smart meters, and only 15 percent consider themselves "very aware."
About the Smart Meter Survey
The survey was conducted online in December 2009. Seventy-five percent (1,253) of respondents resided in zip codes where smart meters had been deployed or were currently being deployed; 25 percent (425) resided in zip codes in the same states but without smart meter deployment. Respondents were screened to include only household incomes greater than $25,000 and primary or occasional payers of residential power bills.