Energy Efficiency Markets chooses its favorites of 2008

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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 ( 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.

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  1. I love the idea behind CMC Energy.

    Most consumers are uneducated about the really easy opportunities that exist to reduce their bills. Such a service gets past that problem, and focuses on where the real benefits are.

    Of course a carbon tax would speed the whole thing up.

  2. greenhomesamerica says:

    A challenge with real third-party home energy audits is that the recommendations often do not include actionable work scopes that your average contractor will be able to understand and implement. The best report doesn’t save a bit of energy. It’s the improvements that save energy–and then, only if installed properly.

    Another point regarding the third-party audit–is that how you get your car repaired? You pay someone to diagnose it and then pay someone else to fix it (and perhaps rediagnosing it)? A comprensive energy audit–like those recommended by EPA and DOE, include the use of blower doors, infrared cameras, and include combustion safety testing. A clip board just won’t give you everything you need. I expand on this thought at: You might actually see BETTER results with a contractor who can not only deliver a comprehensive audit, but who can also actually install–properly–the recommended measures!


  3. I have to agree with Mike’s comment above and add to that.

    For those of us in PA who are certified BPI and RESNET energy auditors and raters it is frustrating to see Bloggers supporting organizations they truly know very little about.

    Our company, Hometown Green, is a member of PA Home Energy. Pa Home Energy is an Energy Star with performance contracting program. This organization audits the auditors. We are checked for our certifications. 1 out of every ten audits is audited. Each company who belongs to PA Home Energy is mentored to make sure it lives up to a standard of auditing that is safe, thorough and effective.

    The people at CMC are only building inspectors. Do you think handing someone an infrared camera and a flashlight really allows someone to know the science behind energy loss. Energy auditors need to know so much more. If you really want to know the difference between a light weight & unsafe energy audit and a quality keep the family and children healthy audit just go to:

    We break it down into easy to understand descriptions.

  4. Sorry I’m late, but can a heat recovery ventilator be considered to fit this criteria? These will replace the moist air with fresh air from outside that is dry. This happens using a fan to create a constant slow incoming flow of outdoor air while concurrently having an outward flow of indoor air that has become stale. In essence, fresh air is in constant supply as the allergens and other pollutants are regularly being escorted out.

  5. Jeff H. says:

    I cannot believe that you would considder ECS to be the best CSP out there. Did they pay you for that endorsement? They overcharge clients, they do no engineering sevices for their clients and never follow up with customers except when they threaten to cancel their contract to go with a real CSP.

    Demand Response is a great resource for the ISO’s but if companies like them continue to participate the market is going to get destroye.


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