Resource Efficiency

February 24th, 2010

Demand-Response for the Average Joe


I was at a training last week at the Connecticut Light & Power headquarters in Berlin, CT.  CL&P is a division of Northeast Utilities.  The most interesting thing I learned there is that CL&P is working on a residential demand response program.

What is demand responseIn this case, CL&P will begin offering rebates for customers to install special meters and switches in their homes that allows the utility to shut off certain appliances when the grid is being pushed, by pushed I mean the demand for electricity is almost more than supply.  The obvious example of this is on a hot summer day when everyone is running their air conditioner.  In exchange for a lower electricity rate, customers that opt in will allow the utility to shut off their equipment during these peak times.  Companies like EnerNoc do this on a commercial and industrial scale.

How much of a discount will customers get?  How often will appliances be shut down?  When will the program roll out?  None of those answers were available to me, but I was encouraged to see this kind of program happening on a residential level.  It’s bound to open up new business opportunities and I’m happy to see some tangible evidence of the much-hyped smart grid.  Way to go Northeast Utilities!

February 1st, 2010

Building Efficiency will be BIGGER than Solar in Mass – Part 2


Last week, I wrote about how Building Efficiency will be BIGGER than the Solar Industry in Massachusetts, this is a follow up to my original post.

With huge money flowing through ‘Cash for Caulkers’ (or HomeStar), Massachusetts DOER, and the utility companies to promote building efficiency, we should have a huge reduction in energy consumption and lots of new jobs soon, right?  Right?


Phil Giudice, Commissioner of MA DOER said that policy makers on the state and federal level are worried about the scalability of this massive national effort.  As he put it, “there is a tremendous amount of building science that goes into basic weatherization projects.”  It takes years to develop the craftsmanship and skill it takes to become a great building performance contractor.  There are a finite number of people qualified to do this work, and right now that number isn’t big enough.

But it’s not just the contractors.  Homeowners and building owners need to be motivated to participate.  The early adopters have already raised their hands – now we’re trying to convert the masses and it’s going to take a herculean effort to educate this enormous group.

So here are the two questions everyone is dying to answer:

  1. How do we motivate building owners (both residential & commercial) to invest their time and energy into making their building more efficient?
  2. How can we make sure the money we spend on building efficiency pays off?

I’d love to hear thoughtful responses to these questions…

January 26th, 2010

Building Efficiency will be BIGGER than Solar in Mass – Part 1


On January 8th I attended a Breakfast Meeting at Foley Hoag with Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusset’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER).  It was a dynamite presentation that touched on smart grid, solar, biomass, and a variety of other interesting topics -  but the thing that dominated the conversation was this: there’s a tsunami of state and federal funds coming available for building efficiency in 2010.  As Phil said, “the money is there and the team is in place – it’s time to have our WOW moment.”  $650 million will be spent by the state to promote energy efficiency in each of the next three years (solar photovoltaic incentives through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will be about $12M this year and that will create 30% growth for the solar industry in Massachusetts).  That’s compared to $150 million in 2008, and doesn’t include incentives offered by the utilities.  These numbers could get bigger as the federal ‘Cash For Caulkers’ program details come into focus.

So What?

Policy conversations about climate change, energy independence, and job creation are all converging on this single initiative.  The pieces are in place for a huge amount of money to flow through the building efficiency value chain and there are still plenty of holes to be filled.  Somebody has to execute and make all of this happen.  If you have an interest in building efficiency there may never be a better time to get actively involved.