EnergySavvy Carves Out Cleantech Space, Focuses on Making Energy Retrofitting Easy

[Updated: 4:40pm Pacific] It’s somewhat surprising to me how long the cleantech industry—no matter how innovative—has been somewhat eclipsed by other up-and-coming tech sectors. In the ’90s the tech industry was dominated by the software and dotcom bubble. In the 2000s, the rising stars were wireless and mobile. Today, it’s cloud computing and social media. But the environment and energy is a topic with staying power in politics and the media—with the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf, and continuing global pressure to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels—the stage is set for the cleantech sector to shine.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve seen dozens of clean energy startups pop up to meet the growing demand for alternative fuels and energy conservation strategies. In 2009, the Palo Alto, CA-based Clean Tech Open expanded to include entrepreneurs in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. And so far this year we’ve seen some encouraging signs of efforts to foster even more innovation in cleantech: Seattle-based construction, consulting, and energy-efficiency firm McKinstry opened up its Innovation Center, which is already serving as an accelerator for three clean energy companies; and The Washington Clean Technology Alliance (WCTA) hired on Tom Ranken as its first full time CEO. He has come in with high hopes of helping the cleantech trade organization reach its full potential.

So much seems to be happening on the cleantech scene here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been hard to keep up with emerging trends. But energy retrofitting is clearly one of the early sectors emerging within the cleantech industry. Why? Because one of the best ways to decrease unnecessary energy use is by improving on existing infrastructure—homes, buildings, transportation, etc.—to be more energy efficient. It’s a lot easier than reinventing the wheel with new fuels, and doesn’t cost consumers a fortune to adopt as a new technology.

It sounds simple enough, but in fact energy retrofitting isn’t as easy as it seems. The problem most consumers face when considering investing in, say, an energy retrofit for their home, is where to start. That’s where Seattle-based EnergySavvy steps in. The young startup was born out of an idea shared by its three co-founders Aaron Goldfeder, Leo Shklovskii, and Karl Siebrecht, a year and a half ago. Their idea was to make a wealth of information on retrofitting options and services readily available to anyone online.

Leo Shklovskii

Leo Shklovskii

“The initial sort of impetus for the company was looking at cleantech, and looking specifically at energy efficiency stuff, and saying, hey, there’s a ton of information here, and it’s really poorly organized,” says EnergySavvy chief technology officer Shklovskii, formerly a developer at Amazon, Redfin, and D.E. Shaw. “It’s valuable. It’s clear there’s money here. It’s clear that if people can save energy, people can make the world a better place.”

What wasn’t as clear for homeowners was where to find information on what retrofits their house may need, and where those services are offered. EnergySavvy, according to Shklovskii, aims to address that problem, by coming into the retrofitting space, and organizing the mess of information that’s already available online.

The young company, which rolled out its initial site in October, followed by a full version February, sees itself as a comprehensive resource to help homeowners figure out the “miles per gallon” of their homes. On the site consumers can take a free energy survey (also called an “energy model” and “energy estimator”) that will determine the efficiency score of their home, suggest specific areas where improvements can be made, and the subsequent costs associated. The short survey, which takes only a couple of minutes to complete, uses intellectual property developed by energy consultant Michael Blasnik, who Shklovskii calls “the wizard of energy efficiency.”

“When Obama needs to know some sort of energy efficiency stats, he tells his people, and those people go and hire Michael to crunch those numbers,” Shklovskii says. [Updated comment from Shklovskii] “We started with his algorithms then we expanded, extended and simplified them in certain places to cover more situations and a wider variety of homes and then built a very easy to use interface to make the whole system easily accessible to most homeowners.”

Rather than dishing out a hefty expense to have an energy auditor come to your home, Shklovskii says the online energy model gives consumers the opportunity to calculate and estimate of their energy use, and find places where they can cut back, invest in improvement, and take advantage of energy … Next Page »

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