It is often said that the so-called ‘low hanging fruit’ in the energy puzzle is not wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, or any of the other renewable resources. The cheapest way to create more available energy is to use our current capacity more efficiently. In other words the ‘low-hanging fruit’ is energy efficiency.
I was reminded of this fact recently when I read an interview with the king of all energy geeks, Amory Lovins, at Mother Jones. Lovins was asked the question, “If you had $1 million to invest in the energy sector, where would you put it?” Lovins responded,
“Efficient use. I want to do the cheapest things first to get the most climate protection and other benefits per dollar. Buying micropower and “negawatts” instead of nuclear gives you about 2 to 11 times more carbon reduction per dollar, and you get it much faster.”
While not as ‘sexy’ as solar and wind, energy efficiency might be the smartest investment play if you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket (though that’s not really the current trend). And while we here at CleanTechnica do not really fancy ourselves to be professional analysts of Jim Cramer or Tom Konrad caliber, we do keep our eyes on emerging trends in the industry. For that reason it is hard not to pick some favorites. I’d like to share two of my favorite energy efficiency plays with you: Echelon (ELON) and Beacon Power (BCON) .
While I am particularly interested in the technological potential of the two companies’ products, I also see plenty of room for growth in the energy efficiency sector more broadly
- Echelon (ELON) markets a suite of network infrastructure products designed for smart-grid applications. Echelon is poised to take the lead in smart-grid hardware for both small and large-scale applications. Last year, Echelon signed a deal with McDonald’s to network its restaurant kitchen equipment and create the “kitchen of the future,” which aims to lower energy consumption and increase operational efficiency.
- Beacon Power (BCON) designs and develops advanced products and services to support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation. More specifically, Beacon has developed a proprietary flywheel system that allows the storing of grid-energy and the smoothing of fluctuations caused by wind-generated electricity. Flywheel-based energy storage systems, unlike lead-acid batteries, do not use hazardous materials for production, nor create them during operation. Unlike batteries, flywheels operate reliably for many years with little or no maintenance.
[Disclosure: The author holds positions in ELON and BCON. However, in no way is this an endorsement or recommendation to purchase either of these stocks. Please thoroughly research any potential investment and always seek the advice of a professional).
“Amory Lovins: ‘Senseless Energy Policy’ (video)” :: ecoscraps (4/2008)
“Utilities Announce Major Efficiency Initiative” :: Green Options (10/2007)
“Eco-effective Decisions” :: Green Options (10/2007)
Tim is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media where he writes regularly about the politics of energy and the environment, green business and clean tech. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.