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8 Lessons From Twitter Energy Monitoring

by Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Two weeks and 77 tweets later, the Twitter “green_watch” project has come to an end. Lots of insights, problems raised, and beginning of answers.

The goal was to use Twitter as a real time, online reporting tool for my personal energy consumption, round the clock.


Lessons learned from the project:

#1. The more engaged we are in flow-like activities, the less our propensity to consume energy and buy things that depend on energy for their production:

Adults and children should be encouraged to develop capacity to engage in activities that are deeply satisfying by themselves, eg, hobbies, work, physical activities. Early education could play an important role in that respect. Children’s creativity should be encouraged more, including the ability to do much with little.

#2. Energy vampires, although well known by now, continue to do their silent work of sucking up electricity unnecessarily, and with no added benefit for the end user.

Smart meters, power strips, are available. But how many people use them? How many know much they could save? The effort required is still too great for the mainstream.

#3. There are no readily available monitoring system to alert us when we are consuming energy, and how much, and in ways that talk to us.

I understand $, comparisons, savings, cute pictures, and sensorial signals such as bells and changing colors. Forget kWhs, tables, and graphs. Lots of work is currently being done in this field. But it still has a long way to go, and is still in pilot stage.

#4. The switch from car to alternative low energy mode of transportation requires that people experience first hand the superior benefits of those alternatives.

From riding my bike a few times, I realized that biking was better for my health, took no more time than driving, avoided traffic jam and parking problem, was a lot of fun, and cost me nothing. Same with taking the train, and realizing that I could use time riding productively, working on my laptop, or reading, plus I did not have to find parking. This shows the importance of jumpstarting the conversion process by eliminating barriers to trial of other mode of transportations.

#5. We are addicted to convenience, even more than to things. Rather than fighting that addiction, we should focus on sustainable alternatives that are as, if not more convenient that current solutions.

The bike example also applies here. If we can convince people that biking is as fast, and less hassle than driving, at least for short distances, then we will have an easier sell. Trying to go against that cultural reality of our Western world, is likely to be met with great resistance, and be counterproductive.

#6. There is a huge fuzzy area in collective energy consumption, and indirect energy use. How does one establish the share between individual and institutional responsibility?

At home, and in my car, I am in charge. What happens when I consume electricity from lighting on the freeways, or university campuses? Or when I buy processed food, without any knowledge of the energy that went into producing it? Information becomes critical, as in food carbon labeling, or public display of energy consumption, for let’s say a public pool. Although not a mainstream reality yet, such information would empower individuals to make informed decisions about their use of such collective services.

#7. Green-ness is a privilege of the rich. People with money to spend on home solar installations, hybrid cars, and carbon offsets for air traveling, can lower their carbon footprint, a lot more easily than their less well-off fellow citizens.

That is a fact. In the absence of significant government subsidies and investments, the average person needs to work a lot harder to decrease his or her carbon footprint

#8. Energy efficiency and conservation, the two low hanging fruits of climate change remediation, have not yet entered the public consciousness.

I am dreaming smart homes, smart transportation, smart consumption. No fancy new technologies required. Only a shift in mindsets, and the pulling together of existing technologies.

Any ideas how to make this happen? I am asking you . . .

Marguerite Manteau-Rao is a green blogger and marketing consultant on sustainability and social media. Her green blog, La Marguerite, focuses on behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability issues. Marguerite is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Since Sarah Palin’s VP nomination, she has also been impersonating Ms. Palin at What’s Sarah Thinking? blog

The love and hate relationship with platform technologies

by Nick Bruse

One of the terms that is used to describe companies every so often is the word “platform technology”. Companies who have been labelled as “platform technology” companies invariably fall into two camps. Those which all the investment community easily understand the technology and it has applications that they all can visualise – and hence they want to throw money at. Secondly those that they don’t really get the potentially for the applications and brand as “complicated” or “no clear business model” or “Not focused”

Recently I interviewed David Forder from TAG Technology, which is a platform technology company. Their product, or their additive ( an often even scarier term for investors) has applications in over 25markets that they have identified so far. Now its been several years to get their product to the stage at which it is now, and David tells me has taken some committed Investors who have stuck with them for the long run. But it hasn’t been a case of money being thrown at them… but now they are getting some attention.

The interesting thing about Thermally Active Granules (TAG) technology is that when applied to buildings in the form of a paint additive can reduce the heat flow by 15% which results in up to 7 degrees warmer/cooler. You can apply it on the outside of the building to keep it cool, or paint it on the inside to keep it warm. Oh and it can be added to windows also to reduce heat flow.

It can be impregnated into candy bar wrappers or food packaging and reduce refrigeration costs, and can even be added into fast food packaging to keep your fries hotter and your soda cooler.

The other neat thing is when applied to power lines in the form a clear coating it can reduce the line temperature by 25% or from 100C down 75degree. This in turn reduces the resistance, in turn reducing the power losses form the line by 10% or more.

It really starts to sound interesting doesn’t it? We’ll I heartily commend David and his Team on this platform technology – and for sticking with it. This is one platform technology we should be thankful for someone having the innovation to produce. If you would like to hear more from David about the technology you can tune into the interview on The Cleantech Show here.

If anyone has any other Cleantech Platform Technologies they would like to commend – please shoot us some comments.


Nick Bruse runs Strike Consulting, a growth venture consultancy specialising in the cleantech sector and hosts the cleantech show, a weekly podcast of interviews with leaders involved in clean technology research, entrepreneurship, commentary and investment.