Recurve Nails the Science of Selling Home Energy Retrofits

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build new power plants. And Recurve will be a leading candidate for such jobs, Golden says, because of the accuracy of its software models, which have been tested and refined in hundreds of homes over the last six years. “If we aggregate 20,000 homes using the energy simulation from each one, we can show that these aggregated homes will deliver a certain demand reduction to the provider,” Golden explains.

Homeowners will still have to pay part of the costs of these retrofits, but Golden says their contribution will come in the form of flat monthly payments that will replace—and are guaranteed to be lower than—their monthly utility bills. That way, everyone wins: utilities don’t have to build more costly generating plants, consumers have lower overall bills, less energy gets wasted and less carbon gets emitted into the atmosphere, and Recurve gets to build a handsome business.

It’s only through market-driven mechanisms like this, Golden argues, that the nation’s 70 million single-family, owner-occupied homes will ever get retrofitted, since governments can’t pay for rebates on that scale. “This is not something we [the taxpayers] can afford to subsidize, and we don’t have to,” Golden says.

In regions with deregulated energy markets, utilities will continue to experiment with new ways to meet demand, including both “smart grid” technologies that measure and control energy usage down to the household level and “forward capacity markets” where utilities bid for the lowest-cost capacity. That capacity could come in the form of either megawatts, such as new gas-fired plants or wind farms or solar arrays, or “negawatts,” that is, guaranteed reductions in demand through retrofitting and other mechanisms. (A quick footnote: New England utilities are the world pioneers in building forward capacity markets, and at Xconomy Boston we’ve devoted extensive coverage to another form of negawatts traded in these markets, the “demand response” services offered by companies like Boston-based EnerNOC and Worcester, MA-based World Energy.)

Utility payments for forward negawatt capacity translate, in effect, into private-sector rebates that will cut the cost of home retrofitting, Golden says. And much of Recurve’s work is aimed toward the day when the company will be able to bid on large-scale retrofitting projects in forward-capacity auctions run by utilities in the western United States. “In the near term, the markets aren’t in place yet,” says Golden. “We are a few years away. But what we are investing in now is a foundation for this industry, which in a few years—in conjunction with the smart grid and forward capacity markets—is going more toward efficiency than anyone expects. It’s cheaper, it doesn’t have any fuel-price risk, and it doesn’t have any carbon risk.”

Golden started the company from the back bedroom of his apartment near the Presidio. (It was long known as Sustainable Spaces, but rebranded itself in 2009 “in preparation for national expansion.”) The company has been profitable from the start, Golden says, meeting payroll without any outside investment until 2008, when it picked up $6 million in Series A funding from RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures. That was followed by an $8 million Series B investment this June from Lowe’s Companies (NYSE: LOW) and existing backers. The company’s most recent news was the addition of a new CEO, Andy Leventhal, a software industry veteran who most recently founded and led Planet Metrics, a carbon emissions modeling company sold this January to Parametric Technology Corporation.

The fact that a home contractor is winning venture investments tells you something about the company’s uniqueness. So does the roster of backers—RockPort is a leading energy, environmental, and materials investor, Shasta’s portfolio is heavy on … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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3 responses to “Recurve Nails the Science of Selling Home Energy Retrofits”

  1. Ted says:

    I wouldn’t knock solar as much, it is a great way to save energy as well. Energy Audits are the most affordable though, it is a great way to figure out where the most energy and money can be saved.

  2. Mike says:

    I agree with Ted, energy audits are the most affordable. what i’m most excited about in all this, is energy auditing is taking off as an industry. my company paid for me to get BPI certified through a training course at CleanEdison, so now i am performing energy audits for a living, it should create a lot of jobs nationwide as well. to me, job creation is the most important objective right now. solar is great, don’t get me wrong, but it is very expensive and it takes some time to pay itself back. energy auditing can layout a bunch of options for the homeowners/business. Great article though

  3. I in no way meant to knock Solar. Solar and other renewable energy sources are absolutely core to reaching our energy and climate goals as a country.

    When I said that solar is the last thing a homeowner should do, what I meant is simply that we should be doing all the cost effective reductions first (or at the same time), and then by all means solar is a great tool to offset what remains.

    We need to both reduce and produce on every house if we hope to reach our goals.