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Blog Archive: July 2009

Clean Tech Startups & Investors Matchmaking Heats Up

Posted by Tim Cox at 6:13 AM, 07/02/2009

By Carole Low, Clean Tech Open Volunteer. Thanks Carol!

The games have begun for  Clean Tech Open’s fourth season of business plan competition! Back in 2008, the Clean Tech Open awarded 6 promising California ventures with $100,000 apiece.  Fast-forward to 2009, where all participants benefit. Ultimately though, the three regional competitions bubble up to 1 national winner-takes-all event. 

 

2009 Competition Timeline

March – Competition opens.

June – Semi-finalists selected regionally. (Denver, Seattle, Silicon Valley)

October – Finalists selected regionally.

November – Regional winners compete in the first national competition held in Silicon Valley. One deserving national winner secures a $250,000 investment combining cash with national services, press coverage, and public recognition.

Pacific Northwest - The region’s first Clean Tech Open competition selected its 12 semi-finalists from 56 applicants. The three finalists move onto the national competition and land $50,000 in case and in-kind services.

Rocky Mountain12 semi-finalists were chosen from 64 ventures, based in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Michigan; 8 Colorado teams distinguished themselves. Three of these teams will reach the national level in addition to securing $50,000 in cash and services. 

California - 158 contestants entered in 1 of 6 categories. 49 semi-finalists were selected. They will now compete with the help of seasoned mentors and advisors for one of 6 slots, $100,000 in cash and services, and a chance to compete at the national level. 

The stakes are high and offer a huge potential payoff for these clean tech contenders. For instance, BusinessWeek recently named CTO alum Nila as one of the 50 best tech startups. James Bond film Quantum of Solace and CNN (TWX) have both used Nila’s lights for large-scale projects, which already suggests promising beginnings.

In an executive Q&A with Marc Gottschalk, co-chair of the California Clean Tech Open business plan competition, he shares key points about what it takes to be a winning cleantech venture. Time will tell.

 

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Generating interest with utilities

Posted by Tim Cox at 8:05 PM, 07/25/2009

This post comes to us from Jill Richards, managing director of Gra y Wolf Partners a management consultancy offering strategy and marketing services to green, technology, and services clients.
Thanks Jill!

GRAY WOLF PARTNERS LLC
PO Box 125
Tiburon, CA 94920
www.graywolfpartners.com

 

Not long ago, generating interest from a utility for an early-stage clean technology startup was nearly impossible. Utilities were incentivized to produce power, not to save it. And, they were ill equipped to work with entrepreneurs, focusing their partnering efforts on established companies and proven products.

Now, however, mandates for utilities to save (rather than produce) energy, and funding to invest in conservation and outreach have utilities opening up and reaching out to entrepreneurs for new ways to meet their goals. (For more information on ways utilities can help get your technology into its market, click here.)

I spoke with the sponsors of a recent CTO breakfast briefing regarding the top five ways entrepreneurs can make the most of the opportunity to work with utilities.

1 – Get to Know your Utility
Although they may seem monolithic, utilities are different from one another. Plan to spend some time learning about the programs and abilities of the utility you want to approach. “Each utility has a different structure and a different platform,” says Robyn Zander, program manager at Southern California Edison. “Some, like Sempra, for example, have an investment arm. While others,like PG&E and SCE, do not.” Knowing your utility partner will help you hone your approach and limit the unproductive time you or the utility might otherwise spend trying to work together.

2 – Understand Utility Time and Set Your Expectations Accordingly
For all their progressive intentions, utilities are still big companies and are subject to a lot of regulations. “It’s easy to get frustrated with the lack of speed at a utility, says Joanne Medvitz, senior program manager, Technology Transfer at PG&E. “There's a lot of complexity in conducting due diligence and following processes that I didn’t understand before working inside PG&E.” Medvitz recommends that entrepreneurs steel themselves for a six-month to two-year adventure when engaging with a utility.

3 – Know Your Target and the Utility’s Offerings
Know the target customer profile for your product and how it is represented in the utility’s service territory. “Just telling us you have a concept for a technology is not that helpful,” Medvitz says. “Even if you don’t know all the details, letting us know your product would appeal to wealthy environmentally conscious people allows us to start working with you to segment our customer base and understand the scope of the opportunity.” The more specific you can be, the better, according to Medvitz, who also recommends companies consider things like the best season to test their technologies (air conditioning in summer, heat-saving technologies in the winter) in addition to the demographics of the end user.

Ahmed Abdullah, Emerging Technology manager at San Diego Gas & Electric, seconds that point. “Entrepreneurs need to know how their product will fit in with our efficiency programs,” he says. He recommends that companies study a utility’s website and filings to learn about the different categories of programs it offers. Then, think about how your product stacks up. “Is the product cost-competitive? How does it compare to existing technologies in terms of cost and energy savings? You should be ready to sell your product from that standpoint,” says Abdullah.

4 – Come Prepared with Calculated and Verified Energy Savings Data
A good idea alone is not sufficient to make progress with a utility. Companies need to come to the table with good data about the energy savings potential of the product. While any data is better than none, “It is important to provide calculated and verified energy savings,” says Medvitz. “Ultimately that's what's driving our business.” Using a third party to verify your data can speed up the process of technology acceptance by a utility. Check with the CPUC for a list of third party validators from whom utilities can take your data and run.

5 – Understand the Relevant Codes and Standards
While there is a market for products that meet the current energy efficiency standards, those are not the products utilities are looking for now. "Your product has to demonstrate that it can save energy over and above the current EPA or California Title 20 or 24 standards in order to qualify for a rebate under new regulations," says Abdullah from SDG&E. If you can’t, the utility will not be interested. As PG&E’s Medvitz says: “The last thing we want to do is have you put out a lot of effort on talking to us about a product that doesn’t qualify for a rebate for our customers.”

You can contact any of the Clean Tech Open utility sponsors by email using the addresses provided. Each has offered to personally connect entrepreneurs with the appropriate resources at his/her utility.

LINKS

PG&E
www.pge.com

Sempra Energy
www.sempra.com

SDG&E
www.sdge.com

Southern California Gas
www.socalgas.com

Southern California Edison
www.sce.com

California Public Utilities Commission
www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc

Robyn Zander
Program Manager, TRIO
Southern California Edison
robyn.zander@sce.com

Joanne Medvitz
Senior Program Manager, Technology Transfer
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
JJHp@pge.com

Ahmed Abdullah
Manager, Emerging Technologies
San Diego Gas and Electric
Southern California Gas Co
.
AAhmed1@semprautilities.com

 

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"Groundsourcing" the Carbon Problem

Posted by Tim Cox at 6:26 PM, 07/29/2009

HCSF Clean Tech Thought Leader Series

Ground, Ice & Water - Dennis Murphy of GroundSource GeoThermal [website] [blog], Clean Tech Open alum, is speaking at the Harvard Club SF Clean Tech Thought Leader Series. Come meet industry experts and learn about ground-source heat pumps, a mission-critical technology as Californians rush to meet "net zero" building requirements by 2020!

What: a networking event and panel discussion on the positive power of "Negatherms" and the role that ground source heat pumps (GSHP) and allied thermal transfer techniques like ice storage and water-gridding can play to significantly reduce energy demand throughout the built environment.
Where: University Club, 800 Powell Street, San Francisco
When: Thursday, August 6th, 2009
6:30-7:00 pm - Dinner
7:00-8:30 pm - Talk and Q&A
Who: Dennis Murphy, president of GroundSource Geo — a Clean Tech Open alumnus — leads a panel of energy innovators focused on new solutions to the age-old problem of providing heating, cooling and hot water.

Overview:
By all accounts, reducing the energy demand from buildings is the major climate change challenge in this country and around the world. The US Green Building Council estimates that buildings are responsible for over forty percent of carbon emissions. When you consider that seventy percent of our built environment in 2050 has already been constructed, the urgency for retrofit-capable solutions becomes apparent. Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) technology is a key piece of the solution.
Oak Ridge National Labs estimates that aggressive adoption of GSHP HVAC systems can save 4 quadrillion BTU. That's significantly more energy than solar, geothermal power and wind power currently produce.
Murphy, a recent winner of the world's largest clean technology business plan competition, The Clean Tech Open, will present a crash-course primer on GSHP and review findings from his high-profile California Energy Commission study, Project Negatherm.
The panel will then highlight an astounding array of uses for the thermal transfer of energy: how ice rinks can heat homes, how your local water utility could provide your air conditioning, and how we just might demand-reduce our way out of this climate mess.

SIGN UP

Members of HCSF, Stanford SF, Ivy Plus, HBSA/NC and Columbia: $15
Non-members: $25
Price includes dinner.
Members may bring one guest at member price.
Registration: required by Monday, August 4, 2009

About the series...
The HCSF Clean Tech Thought Leader Series introduces the HCSF community and guests to thought leaders working on the many front lines of clean technology. The series covers technological fields of wind, solar, hydropower generation, biofuels, green construction and transportation, as well as non-technical fields such as entrepreneurialism, investment, public policy, marketing and even job-hunting.
The series is chaired by Augie Rakow, intellectual property attorney and Board Member at the Harvard Club of San Francisco.
Sponsor Alston & Bird LLP is a national law firm with specialized expertise in regulatory, finance, land use and intellectual property aspects of clean tech law.

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Are utilities worth the energy?

Posted by Tim Cox at 2:56 PM, 07/30/2009

This post comes to us from Jill Richards, managing director of Gray Wolf Partners a management consultancy offering strategy and marketing services to green, technology, and services clients.
Thanks Jill!

GRAY WOLF PARTNERS LLC
PO Box 125
Tiburon, CA 94920
www.graywolfpartners.com

If you are a clean tech entrepreneur, you may be wondering if trying to pitch your ideas to a utility is worth the energy. It turns out that utilities are becoming more efficient with the energy you expend to work with them. They have multiple programs and resources that they are ready and willing to make available to clean tech entrepreneurs. Here are some you should be aware of from California utilities (and Clean Tech Open sponsors).

1) The TRIO program
California utilities are working together to demystify the process at utilities and make it easier for new technologies to get into utility pipelines. The Technology Resource Incubator Outreach (TRIO) program is a statewide program designed to help clean tech entrepreneurs navigate the process of creating and leveraging relationships with utilities. Program officials are presenting the program informally and gathering feedback on it now since TRIO is still awaiting funding. When it officially launches in 2010, the program will explain why utilities are in the business of energy efficiency, how to coordinate with utilities, and the utility technology evaluation process. Learn more now about the process for new technologies and the value provided to TRIO participants by reading this presentation given at a recent Clean Tech Open breakfast briefing or listening to this TRIO podcast.

2) Emerging technology programs
Each utility has its own unique programs and processes but most, if not all, have emerging technology groups that keep track of technology innovations and invite new and promising concepts into their program pipelines. These groups are staffed by helpful and friendly people who can help evaluate the feasibility of your concept or prototype. These people will also connect you with the appropriate engineers and other experts in their organizations who can provide feedback, review technical reports and business plans, provide test sites and customers, and often provide assistance with testing, monitoring, and energy savings data collection. All of this can prove invaluable for startups looking for concept validation, relationships with partners and customers, and other incentives for investors.

3) Programs with funding
Each utility also has programs for technologies that are past the startup phase and already proven or in production. Southern California Edison (SCE), for example has what it calls its IDEA program, which stands for Innovative Design for Energy efficiency Activities. The program invites proposals for the implementation of proven energy efficiency measures. The proposals are presented and scored by an internal utility team and high scorers can be rewarded with a $3 million purchase order to implement their plan. The technology remains in the program for two years with an Edison customer base and, if successful, is then expanded into SCE’s mainstream core program. For more information, look on www.sce.com. Likewise, Sempra Energy and Southern California Gas offer funding opportunities for technologies that are a strong fit with the utility’s customer base and energy conservation goals. Together, these utilities have small funds with just over $10 million in assets from which they make investments of $200,000 to $1 million in select technologies.

For all of these programs, check utility websites and contact the representatives of CTO’s sponsoring utilities.

 

LINKS

PG&E
www.pge.com

Sempra Energy
www.sempra.com

SDG&E
www.sdge.com

Southern California Gas
www.socalgas.com

Southern California Edison
www.sce.com

California Public Utilities Commission
www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc

Robyn Zander
Program Manager, TRIO
Southern California Edison
robyn.zander@sce.com

Joanne Medvitz
Senior Program Manager, Technology Transfer
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
JJHp@pge.com

Ahmed Abdullah
Manager, Emerging Technologies
San Diego Gas and Electric
Southern California Gas Co
.
AAhmed1@semprautilities.com

 

This post comes to us from Jill Richards, managing director of Gray Wolf Partners a management consultancy offering strategy and marketing services to green, technology, and services clients.
Thanks Jill!

GRAY WOLF PARTNERS LLC
PO Box 125
Tiburon, CA 94920
www.graywolfpartners.com

 

If you are a clean tech entrepreneur, you may be wondering if trying to pitch your ideas to a utility is worth the energy. It turns out that utilities are becoming more efficient with the energy you expend to work with them. They have multiple programs and resources that they are ready and willing to make available to clean tech entrepreneurs. Here are some you should be aware of from California utilities (and Clean Tech Open sponsors).

1) The TRIO program
California utilities are working together to demystify the process at utilities and make it easier for new technologies to get into utility pipelines. The Technology Resource Incubator Outreach (TRIO) program is a statewide program designed to help clean tech entrepreneurs navigate the process of creating and leveraging relationships with utilities. Program officials are presenting the program informally and gathering feedback on it now since TRIO is still awaiting funding. When it officially launches in 2010, the program will explain why utilities are in the business of energy efficiency, how to coordinate with utilities, and the utility technology evaluation process. Learn more now about the process for new technologies and the value provided to TRIO participants by reading this presentation given at a recent Clean Tech Open breakfast briefing or listening to this TRIO podcast.

2) Emerging technology programs
Each utility has its own unique programs and processes but most, if not all, have emerging technology groups that keep track of technology innovations and invite new and promising concepts into their program pipelines. These groups are staffed by helpful and friendly people who can help evaluate the feasibility of your concept or prototype. These people will also connect you with the appropriate engineers and other experts in their organizations who can provide feedback, review technical reports and business plans, provide test sites and customers, and often provide assistance with testing, monitoring, and energy savings data collection. All of this can prove invaluable for startups looking for concept validation, relationships with partners and customers, and other incentives for investors.

3) Programs with funding
Each utility also has programs for technologies that are past the startup phase and already proven or in production. Southern California Edison (SCE), for example has what it calls its IDEA program, which stands for Innovative Design for Energy efficiency Activities. The program invites proposals for the implementation of proven energy efficiency measures. The proposals are presented and scored by an internal utility team and high scorers can be rewarded with a $3 million purchase order to implement their plan. The technology remains in the program for two years with an Edison customer base and, if successful, is then expanded into SCE’s mainstream core program. For more information, look on www.sce.com. Likewise, Sempra Energy and Southern California Gas offer funding opportunities for technologies that are a strong fit with the utility’s customer base and energy conservation goals. Together, these utilities have small funds with just over $10 million in assets from which they make investments of $200,000 to $1 million in select technologies.

For all of these programs, check utility websites and contact the representatives of CTO’s sponsoring utilities.

 

LINKS

PG&E
www.pge.com

Sempra Energy
www.sempra.com

SDG&E
www.sdge.com

Southern California Gas
www.socalgas.com

Southern California Edison
www.sce.com

California Public Utilities Commission
www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc

Robyn Zander
Program Manager, TRIO
Southern California Edison
robyn.zander@sce.com

Joanne Medvitz
Senior Program Manager, Technology Transfer
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
JJHp@pge.com

Ahmed Abdullah
Manager, Emerging Technologies
San Diego Gas and Electric
Southern California Gas Co
.
AAhmed1@semprautilities.com

 

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