Launching the Energy Efficiency Center

Yesterday, we launched the first academic Center focused on the commercialization of energy efficient technologies. The Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) was created with a $1M grant from the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) represents a rather unique and interdisciplinary collaboration across the colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and the Graduate School of Management. California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the opening remarks (for related articles, I’ve provided links below).

The Center represents a new direction in the development of energy efficiency and, I hope, other sustainable technologies, as it brings the perspectives and resources of the entrepreneurial community into the conversation–the voices not only of the end-user, but also of investors, suppliers, resellers, and countless others.

As the founding Director of the Center, I gave these brief remarks:

In 1882, Thomas Edison threw the switch at his Pearl Street Station and created an energy revolution. But history can be deceiving. Edison neither invented the light bulb nor perfected its performance. That technology was 40 years old by the time Edison got to it.

Edison’s impact came not from inventing a new technology but, instead, from finding the right business model that would bring this emerging technology into the marketplace–a business model that would be embraced by customers, yes, but also investors, suppliers, regulators, and a host of other eventual stakeholders.

Thanks to the vision and support of the California Clean Energy Fund, the Energy Efficiency Center at UC Davis represents the first effort solely focused on bringing the emerging technologies of energy efficiency into the marketplace.

With the support of CalCEF and in partnerships such as we have now with PG&E, this center will be a catalyst for raising energy efficiency and reducing energy costs in California transportation, building, and agriculture—by bringing rigorous science and practical solutions together with sustainable business models.

Researchers at UC Davis and partner institutions already lead the nation in much of the science and technology of energy efficiency. This work can be seen, for eample, in the Institute for Transportation Studies where innovations are bringing the power of information technology and the internet to problem of traffic congestion and trucking logistics.

Other similar innovations are coming from the California Lighting Technology Center, where they are working in partnership with utilities, manufacturers, and customers to develop new technologies and standards for lighting—some of which can be seen in this building. And from research in Agriculture and Food Processing, where new sensors can improve the efficiency of irrigation pumps and reduce water consumption.

Dan Sperling, in particular, has been a driving force behind the formation of this center and his work has made UC Davis a national and international leader in energy-related research. He will play a key role in this center as its Associate Director.

This center will change the way we study energy efficiency, the way we teach it, and the ways in which we work together with the public and private sector to develop real and lasting innovations in energy. Keep an eye on us.

Here is some of the initial press reporting on the launch: