Believing in cleantech should mean walking the walk. Believing that technology can change the world, but that consumers have to play their part. Not just believing that technology will fix everything at the same price or that we can offload our problems to policy makers who can’t stumble out of their own way. Not slamming oil and power companies for providing us with exactly as much energy as we choose to consume. The title says it all, how’s your score on the checklist?
If you own a house – get an energy audit. It will tell you to a) buy CFLs, b) blow in more insulation, c) seal your ducts, d) programmable thermostat, e) swap out the older appliances. If you don’t own one (and in California you’re probably better off it you don’t), still buy the CFLs. As a side note, I tried to get my wife to let me buy LED lights instead of CFLs. $60 for 30,000 hour life and 12 watts (equivalent to a 65 watt incandescent). And very cool looking. CFL was 6,000 hour life for 15 watts same equivalency. Price $10. Oh, but the CFL had a 5 year warranty vs. 2 year for the LED. For some reason after seeing the warranty she didn’t believe the 30,000 hours were real. That last part may well be a cleantech problem. So get cracking folks, I am not permitted to buy LEDs until the warranty matches the rated life.
Turn off your lights – my Dad has been telling me this since I was 10. Amazingly enough, it still works, and it still needs to be said. And if you are too eye-hand coordination challenged, we’ve just invented these amazing things called motion sensors and timers. Walmart has them by the dozens.
Water your lawn anytime but the middle of the day. Your Dad told you to do this growing up, and you still forget. And can we say timer and drip system?
Learn to use, in this order – windows, curtains and fans before you use air conditioning. And when you buy it, buy the most advanced and efficient window, thickest curtain, best fan, AC, heater, appliance whatever gadget is available. It will be more expensive. Cleantech usually is. But it’s the right thing to do.
Buy as little processed foods as possible – everything from your carbon to water to energy footprint will thank you. As well as your budget. And your waistline. Except for cakes and Girl Scout cookies. You’re forgiven for those. Box cakes and Thin Mints are still the greatest things ever.
Keep your car another year. Don’t be fooled. Going hybrid does NOT equate to doing the right thing (though it does make you feel better, and it is a way cool status symbol). Driving your car longer does do the right thing. And next time, just buy one car size smaller. That combo can cut your transport costs in half AND save the world. (Of course, if you work in cleantech PR, I might recommend the hybrid anyway.) My car was built when Netscape went public. I think I can get 5 more years out of it. I may be able to get away with only one or at most two more cars in my entire life. Which is good, because I’m going to need the savings to pay for rising health insurance costs and my share of the new, new national debt. But seriously, if I could get a 25 year Corolla with 35 mpg for <$17K, do you really think the planet wants me to buy two $25K 50 mpg Priuses instead? Keep in mind the average car in the US is half of that 25 years, and the average consumer keeps a car for only half of that, and your average hybrid payback is longer than either your average hold period, the car’s warranty, or the manufacturer’s rated life. But that’s ok, just tell your neighbors that compared to your option ARM home loan, the hybrid is a very, very good deal.
Stop b*%^hing about smart meters. Heaven forbid we should drag our power company into the 21st century. Heaven forbid the power company that supplies you electricity should actually know how much you used. And bill you for it. I think they have term for the anti-smart meter movement – luddite. Or the super highly technical term “whiner head case”. I’ll paraphrase a favorite quote of mine from the Duke Energy CTO from sometime back – “why is it again that our power meters aren’t just software in our PCs”? Hmmmh, it couldn’t be because, gasp, we’re regulated? Or maybe because we like little round spinning dials. Kind of like bringing 50s retro style back?
Buy your power green. In real states like Texas, you can choose from different vendors what mix of power you want. Real grid, 8.4 cents/kwh. All wind? 12 cents/kwh. All natural gas? 20% wind? Take your pick. Can we say, everywhere else in world can figure out how to do energy deregulation, why can’t California? Jerry? Meg? How about taking a run at doing it right this time? Or we could just do it California style and try and replace an IOU monopoly with a municipal monopoly.
And possibly of most importance, just because you drive a hybrid and put solar on your roof does NOT mean you’re doing your part. Especially if you tell your friends it’s cheaper while you neglected the other items. What’s the technical term, “it ain’t”. It may be, however, better. This is cleantech. Go for better. Make a difference.
Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners, and has cofounded several cleantech startups from carbon to superconductors. He is a Texas Aggie.