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From to Solar

Eric Wesoff: November 21, 2009, 9:52 PM

Gary Kremen is the Chairman and founder of Clean Power Finance (CPF), an interesting solar company. CPF provides a standardized software-as-service (SaaS) tool that lets solar panel installers vastly speed up the sales proposal, rebate processing, system design and lead generation.

Based in occasionally sunny San Francisco, the company aims to enable mass-market adoption of solar with an end-to-end solution that integrates software and financing into the sales process. 

Solar installers work with trucks, ladders, tool belts and roofs. "They hate paperwork," according to Kremen.  So, CPF runs that part of the business for the installer. "We help the installer close the customer," asserts the founder.

CPF supplies the integrated software but soon expects to provide a means of financing solar roofs for home and business owners. "Why can't buying solar be like buying a car with POS [point of sale] financing?," said Kremen. Solar is in roughly the same price range. You should get credit at the same time you make the purchase."
As the price of the solar equipment drops, the "soft costs" of the sale and installation become more significant, said Kremen. "We are the CRM and MRP and system design. We produce the proposals and fill out the forms. Additionally, we have the world's best database of utility rates. PG&E has 200 rates. We help these installers get away from the math and the paperwork. Filling out the forms can take five hours."

The company also does shading analysis, and that saves the installer at least one visit to the site. 

As testament to the value of CPF's Software as a Service product, the company has won Conergy, Real Goods, RoofRay and Suntech as customers.  "We probably power 20 percent of the solar installers," said Kremen.

CPF's goals are aligned with the folks at SolarTech where they work with their Finance and Workforce Committees focusing on sales training, front end standards and best practices.

I did promise sex in the headline so here it is...

Gary Kremen has had a unique and storied history prior to his solar venture. As a founder of, he's responsible, in his words, for "spreading the love." Others would assert that is responsible for more bad dates than The Olive Garden.  In any case, Match.Com was eventually sold to Ticketmaster / Citysearch for $50 million.

And there's the genuinely riveting saga which you can read about here.


Korea Wants 30% of Smart Grid Worldwide

Jeff St. John: November 20, 2009, 4:41 PM

The South Korean government has declared its intention to help its home industries win 30 percent of the global smart grid market, Reuters reported Friday.

But to start, the government will spend a relatively small 37 billion won ($32 million) to test smart grid systems from a consortium including SK Telecom, LG Electronics, Hyundai Heavy Industries and national utility Korea Electric Power Corp., or KEPCO.

The test will on be on Jeju Island, a volcanic island between Korea and Japan with about 565,000 residents. State-run Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning will coordinate the project, which is expected to start next year.

The project will include a "smart transportation" system aimed at power and communications for electric vehicles, as well as a "smart renewable" side to integrate solar and wind energy, Reuters reported. It will also include two-way communications between the utility and customers to improve energy efficiency.

Eventually, the government wants to see its 68 trillion won ($58.3 billion) electricity market connected in a smart grid, it announced in July. That could save it about $10 billion a year in energy import costs, according to the country's Ministry of Knowledge Economy (see Korea Times).

But Korea's declared goal to snap up nearly one-third of the global smart grid market – which could be anywhere from $20 billion to $160 billion or so over the coming decades, according to various estimates – might get more attention.

At the same time, Korea is being approached by smart grid-related offers from overseas. General Electric wants to deploy about 300,000 smart meters with Korea's NURI Telecom, and San Jose, Calif.-based Echelon is working with Samsung electronics for devices that monitor energy use in apartments in Korea, as well as in China (see GE Dives Into Korean Smart Meter Market With NURI Telecom and Echelon Beefs Up LonWorks).

On the distribution grid side, Devens, Mass.-based American Superconductor is selling its superconducting wires to Korea's LS Cable for a project it's doing with KEPCO (see Green Light post).

After Steep Rise, A123 Systems’ Stock Heading Back Toward IPO Price

Michael Kanellos: November 20, 2009, 2:47 PM

Nearly two months after its successful initial public offering, A123 Systems seems headed back to its roots.

The company's stock has traded at around $15 today and has dipped into the high $14 range. (I noticed this after getting a stock quote for a report that Tesla may file for an IPO.) A123 went out at $13.50.

Stocks are currently being whacked, so it's natural that the battery maker would take a hit. Still, it's been a wild two months. The company's stock climbed to nearly $20 on the first day of trading, a 45 percent increase. A little while later, it climbed past $28 and stayed in the $20 plus range through most of October.

But November has brought a spate of bad news and a gradual slide downward. First, Fiat announced it had revamped and trimmed back Chrysler's electric car plans. Chrysler had picked A123 to make its batteries. A week later, A123, in its most recent quarterly report, posted a $22.9 million loss but an increase in revenue. On the plus side, the company completed a utility energy storage project in Chile.

Tesla Prepping for IPO, Speculates Reuters

Michael Kanellos: November 20, 2009, 2:35 PM

Tesla Motors is preparing to move forward with an IPO, according to unidentified sources at Reuters.

There is no S-1 on file right now, according to the SEC's website, but that would be the first step.

Many have waited for Tesla to start moving on an IPO. It is one of the most visible green companies and, with its loan from the government, will likely be able to fulfill its ambitions of bringing out a sedan in a few years.

The A123 Systems IPO likely had an effect as well. A123's stock zoomed up the first day of trading and sparked hopes that more would follow. (A number of people, in fact, sent Musk news articles on the A123 IPO the day it occurred, I'm told.)

Of course, not everything goes as planned. Although A123 nearly hit $20 on the first day of trading, it is now wallowing around $15. The company went out at $13.50.


Johnson Controls: What’s Hot in Green Building

Michael Kanellos: November 20, 2009, 2:15 PM

Johnson Controls will informally refer to itself as the IBM of green building and in many ways the analogy is apt. Both companies have extensive histories. The Milwaukee-based company just announced another quarterly dividend, the latest in a streak that stretches back to 1887.

And, like IBM, the company is pervasive in its field. Johnson is one of the principal contractors behind the retrofit of the Empire State Building. It also employs 800 LEED-accredited employees. Thus, what the company does will have some impact on the market. (It also received a $299 million grant to develop transportation batteries earlier this year.)

We recently spoke to Don Albinger, vice president of renewable energy solutions. Here's what's on his mind:

• Performance-based contracts continue to gain popularity, particularly with public sector companies like schools or government agencies. In these agreements, a contractor performs a retrofit and then guarantees certain reductions in energy consumption, etc. If they miss, the owner gets a refund. The contracts are similar to energy services contracts, in which the contractor gets paid through a portion of the energy saved, but there are differences.

• Industrial solar steam is taking off. In these systems, heat from the sun is exploited to run industrial boilers. "It is about a 40 percent efficient process. Solar thermal has advantages we need to capitalize on," he said.

• Although biomass has been gathering interest in some parts of the country, it is being challenged by the relatively low price of natural gas.

• One of the next waves in the industry will involve around tying building energy management systems to other enterprise applications. HVAC will be linked to building security applications and both will be integrated into financial and other applications. This will make energy savings and efficiency more dynamic and easier to measure. The company worked on a project like this with the state of Missouri, which has helped cut millions out of operating budgets.

• And of course, customers looking at ways to cut power bills should always think about reducing consumption before putting up solar panels.

"You've got to stop the building from losing energy before you start putting in new capital equipment," he said.

Ontario May Follow California With TV Energy Standards

Michael Kanellos: November 20, 2009, 12:59 PM

Two days after California passed energy efficiency regulations for TV, government officials in Ontario say they might go the same direction.

"We're always looking at ways we need to improve standards with appliances," Energy Minister Gerry Phillips told the Star. "Over the next few months we'll be looking at whether we need to set some additional new standards."

Whether and how quickly another government might follow California was one of the big questions following the 5–0 vote by the California Energy Commission to adopt regulations that set standards for energy efficiency. Under the new California rules, TVs measuring 58 inches or less will have to become 33 percent more efficient by 2011 and 49 percent more efficent by 2013.

The annoucement likely already sent members of the Consumer Electronics Association to Expedia to book flights to Canada's home of greentech. The California regulations came after a long, hard battle.

Many TVs already meet that standard. Panasonic already makes plasma TVs, for instance, that consume 142 watts. Hitachi and others have also begun to show off technologies – like automatic shut-off and TVs with energy efficient lighting schemes – that could lead to TVs that consume less than 100 watts. In fact, 1,000 TVs already meet the standard, the CEC pointed out.

True, but it's the unintended consequences that scare manufacturers. Integrating a hard drive into a TV so that it can record TV shows invariably will increase power consumption. However, a TV with a built-in DVR might consume less energy than TVs and DVRs sold separately. The regulations, thus, could increase power consumption. Energy efficiency can also add to the cost of TVs.

Gore: White House Shooting for Climate Bill by Spring

Michael Kanellos: November 19, 2009, 7:27 PM

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- Former Vice President Al Gore says the White House will try to get a climate bill passed by late spring 2010 or earlier.

"The window for 2010 probably closes around when spring ends," he said during a speech at GreenBeat taking place in San Mateo. Things are looking a bit up. Senators Joe Lieberman (Gore's former running mate) and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are already working with Democratic senators to write a piece of legislation that will get at least some bipartisan support. It will probably include more subsidies for nuclear power, but otherwise will be similar to the Waxman-Markey bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed earlier this year.

If the White House can get a Spring victory, it can go to a international conference in June with a solid U.S. position on climate legislation. Otherwise, the next big international event for the White House to present what the U.S. has accomplished comes in Mexico City in late 2010.

While green power is important, Gore added that infusing the grid with intelligence will likely have a larger impact.

"The single largest solution is efficiency," he said. "The reason efficiency is the largest source of low carbon or no carbon energy is the fact that we waste so much energy."

Distributed generation and power will also increase the need for grid improvements. The average age of transformers in the U.S. is 42 years old. Lots of new products, jobs etc. Whirlpool has smart appliances coming.

Right now it takes 1 gigawatt worth of power just to provide power to TVs that are plugged in yet turned off, Gore stated.

Things will outnumber people on the internet, he stated. By early next year, there will be one billion transistors for every person in the world.

Other highlights of the speech so far: We face a masssive climate change and he used to listen to Minnie Pearl on the Grand Ol' Opry.