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Efficiency, Lower Carbon Emissions Remain Key to Startup-Driven Energy Future

Energy efficiency leads to savings in the bank, as well as lower carbon emissions—two outcomes that states hope to achieve, especially once the Environmental Protection Agency finalizes its Clean Power Plan.

“The Clean Power Plan… contains a set of state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) performance standards that must be met by 2030,” the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions reported in a study released this month. “The rule is scheduled to be finalized in the summer of 2015.”

In other words, states have just a few months before they’re held accountable to new carbon-emissions standards. To help ready states for the task, the C2ES study compared different economic models in order to determine the best way states and power plants can implement the new plan.

The study revealed one underlying theme: Energy efficiency is key.

“The EPA Clean Power Plan is something that’s on the front burner for a lot of states and cities and companies who are in the energy business,” C2ES President Bob Perciasepe said at a forum hosted by the non-profit organization this week. “One of the things that’s a key observation of… the Clean Power Plan is how important energy efficiency is to cost-effectively implementing those plans.”

With these pending changes, America’s energy efficient future is becoming an important topic among energy innovators. The topic emerged on multiple occasions at 1776’s Challenge Festival in Washington, D.C. last week, as innovators from around the world offered their solutions for more efficient commercial and residential buildings.

As it currently stands, though, the future isn’t looking so efficient: The International Energy Efficiency Scorecard compiled last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, America placed 13th out of the 16 major world economies reviewed in the scorecard.

Thus, it’s no surprise that PSEG President and CEO Ralph Izzo believes there is still much room for companies to grow and develop in the energy efficiency space. Izzo also spoke at the C2ES forum aimed at encouraging technological development to enhance energy efficiency.

“I often joke about the fact that if Alexander Graham Bell was alive today, he would think that millennia had passed since he made that fateful call to his colleague Watson,” Izzo said at the event. “Yet, if Thomas Edison were to walk the streets today, he would think he was waking up from an afternoon nap, as he would recognize much of the hardware that is in use today.”

Perhaps not for long. Established players ranging from NASA to Tesla are working on new technology that is sure to confound Mr. Edison himself.

NASA, for example, is partnering with California-based Joby Aviation to develop a way to use electronic propulsion to power airplanes, in order to make flying both economically and environmentally efficient. This new technology aims to dramatically reduce the energy needed to fly an airplane, saving money and cutting emissions.

“Achieving that unprecedented 500 percent reduction in energy will simultaneously produce a snowball result of a 30 percent decrease of the total operating cost, as well as an exceptional 0 percent emission,” a CBS Los Angeles article reported.

Tesla is also working on energy efficient products—but their goal is to gradually decrease consumers’ dependence on traditional power grids and increase solar energy.

That’s an area in which many startups are working as well, though startup solutions largely focus on commercial and residential solutions. recently listed a few energy efficiency startups, such as Opower and Simple Energy, which provide data on users’ energy consumption in order to enable consumers to optimize and conserve energy.

Meanwhile, Curb is another startup with an energy efficiency solution. According to its website, the Austin-based startup is the “first whole home energy intelligence system.”

“The cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy that you don’t have to use,” Curb Founder and CEO Erik Norwood wrote to 1776 in an email.

This belief—combined with a lack of tools to specifically track and measure which devices are consuming the most energy—led Norwood and his team to develop a product that reveals how data could lead to energy conservation, and consequently, savings.

When the team was testing its early prototype, Norwood said they noticed a default setting on an inkjet printer. The setting caused the printer to automatically warm the ink once every minute while the printer was on standby. This simple default setting wasted both energy and money—costing around $200 annually.

Figures like that show how energy efficiency is not just something about which those in the energy industry need to be aware, but consumers, too. Yet, conserving energy is sometimes still associated with costly sacrifices in the way consumers carry out their day-to-day tasks and routines. However, energy efficiency is not as cumbersome as some may think, Norwood said.

“We’ve found just the opposite,” he wrote. “Typically people discover devices or appliances that are using large amounts of power without providing much or any benefit to the customer, so simple changes, like adjusting the timer on your pool pump, can have a dramatic impact.”

In addition to enabling customers to determine the simplest way to conserve energy without it interfering with everyday actions, technological advances within the energy industry makes services such as Curb more affordable.

“The energy space is rapidly changing and growing as new technologies like solar displace traditional energy sources. Additionally, the Internet of Things (IoT) and home automation are both rapidly expanding markets,” Norwood wrote. “As progress in technology makes sensors cheaper and more accurate, products like Curb are able to find their way to market at prices that typical consumers can afford.”

Chelsea Tyson

Chelsea Tyson recently graduated from Regent University and is working to pursue a degree in journalism. She previously interned at 1776 where she developed a passion for writing about the…