Greenbox, where IT meets energy

A very nice story on Greenbox graced the cover of February’s Entrepreneur magazine.  Greenbox is a San Bruno startup pulling together and repackaging information about residential energy consumption.

“We’re calling it interactive energy management,”
says Smith, Greenbox’s vice president of marketing. “How do you get
[homeowners] more engaged with how, where and when they use energy and
give them the tools to make better decisions?”

There are only a few places where Energy Efficiency has a chance to make real gains in the traditional model of Si Vallety entrepreneurship: low capital investment, high proprietary technology, and scalability. Greenbox is aiming directly at one of these places–the intersection between households, home area networks, smart meters, and utility databases, where a few smart programmers and marketing guys can create a set of tools and relationships that can find rapid growth and, hopefully, impact.

The idea is similar to the flies engraved in urinals (see Nudges)–given something to aim for, it’s amazing how consumers can be nudged to change their behavior despite a lack of clear incentives for doing so. Given the costs of improving existing energy infrastructure, and the relatively low returns to individual homeowners (even if they are better than investing in solar), changing behavior through non-economic means may be the most economical strategy.

Greenbox is one of a number of similar efforts in this area, but also one of the leading companies and thus one to follow.

[author’s note: a special shout-out to Matt Smitt, who participated in the Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy 07]