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The Most Impressive Comeback Story You Haven’t Heard

By Ross Chanin & Emilee Pierce

If you read the tech press, you know the scoop: Google just bought Nest Labs (the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors) for $3.2 billion. For context, that’s more than three times the amount that Facebook paid for Instagram in last year’s blockbuster and Google’s second largest acquisition to date.

What you probably haven’t heard is what this megabuy says about the cleantech industry. In fact, you probably haven’t heard that it involves cleantech at all. That’s because the vast majority of media coverage focused on Google and what this acquisition tells us about the Internet giant’s future plans.

But there’s another story here. Nest is hardly the only cleantech company making headlines these days. Among the others: Tesla, the maker of luxury electric cars, posted a market cap reaching $22 billion in 2013; Solar City, a leading residential solar installer, saw its stock rocket 700 percent in the twelve months following its IPO; and Opower, which deploys social influence to reduce energy consumption, doubled its user base in the last year alone.

These companies aren’t one-off successes. They represent the forefront of an impressive industry comeback — a comeback fueled by a cocktail of appealing products, sleek marketing, big data, and elegant software. Nest made smart thermostats cool, Tesla made an electric car a status symbol, and Opower made energy consumption a neighborly competition. At American Efficient, we hope to make renewable power a must-have for you and your favorite local coffee shop.

Clean technology choices aren’t new, but appealing, sleek, and simple ones are. We have this new crop of hot, consumer-facing cleantech brands to thank for that. We now want to purchase renewable power for our home or business, install solar panels on our roof, upgrade to efficient home products, drive an electric or hybrid ride — just to keep up with the Joneses. That’s big news.

But here’s the thing: You won’t hear about the cleantech comeback from your morning paper or nightly news program. Mass media continues to portray cleantech companies as either lonely orphans or oddly healthy members of an otherwise sick family (See: 60 Minutes Show on Cleantech = Dumb & Dumber Part 3). But the real story is about what’s new and what’s next: cleantech with a consumer-friendly design and sound economics. In our view, it’s a cleantech comeback. And a big one at that.

Ross Chanin is co-founder and CEO of American Efficient, a clean tech company that helps consumers purchase renewable power and energy efficient products through a network of retail businesses, competitive power suppliers and regulated utilities. Emilee Pierce is American Efficient’s VP of Marketing & Partnerships. More info at:

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