Joulex doesn't get as much publicity as some of the other companies managing energy in data centers and buildings, but its reputation is growing in the industry.

The company today landed a $17 million round from Sigma Ventures, Intel Capital and others. The company has developed software for monitoring the power delivered to different appliances in the typical office setting -- servers, PCs, lights, HVAC systems, etc. -- and controlling them to reduce overall power consumption.

The chief difference lies in the speed at which Joulex's software can accomplish this. For client Equifax, the company managed to start monitoring the desktops of 6,000 employees in about 2.5 hours. The speed comes in part because the Joulex system doesn't require software agents for each desktop.

"Less software is our biggest differentiator," CEO Tom Noonan told us last year, adding that the system is partly based around concepts from the way security software is deployed. Noonan served as CEO of ISS, which IBM bought for $1.5 billion.

Other companies in this space include Sentilla, SynapSense, Power Assure, SkyFoundry and Vigilent. Everyone has their own twist. Power Assure concentrates on energy consumed by servers and computer equipment. Vigilent exclusively looks at air conditioners. Intel recently showed off a system that looks at plug loads. SkyFoundry is a platform that lets end-users customize applications to their liking. Sentilla, Vigilent and SynapSense almost exclusively look at data centers, while SkyFoundry and Scientific Conservation focus quite a bit on office space.

Joulex's customers include Cisco, Intel, VMWare and other Silicon Valley luminaries. Considering Noonan's past, you have to put them on the 'could be acquired within two years' list along with the names listed above.

--Speaking of air conditioning, Vigilent this week said that it is in 24 data centers owned by Verizon and has managed to shut down 40 percent of the air conditioners in there. Not only did it save quite a bit of power, the average temperature actually went down two degrees. What? AC units can fight each other and raise the overall temperature, founder Cliff Federspiel told us recently. Thus, AC is very Bauhaus: less is more.

--General Motors dropped the price of the 2012 Chevy Volt to $39,995. Right now, the Volt only qualifies for the $7,500 tax credit but the company told us in February that it will have a California edition that will allow buyers to qualify for that state's $5,000 tax credit so that it will compete better against the Leaf and other cars. It is a matter of finessing the regulations. Either way, Felix Kramer of CalCars drives both a Volt and a Leaf and while he likes both, he raves about the Volt.

--John Sinfeld, the man who helped invent unleaded gas, has died. He was 80.

--How much does it cost to leave your utility and set up a muni co-op? A new study says it will cost $622 million for Boulder to build its own muni and leave Xcel Energy. That even makes SmartGridCity look like a bargain.

--Sharp has begun to test its Eco House. Panasonic has one already. Japanese and South Korean conglomerates are going to invade quite a few markets, in part because of their sprawling nature. Samsung Electronics has over 100 separate subsidiaries and sister Samsung companies make automotive technology and homes.

--Finally, the DOE is giving $70 million to research drilling techniques and mapping in geothermal, among other geo topics. It's needed. Geothermal is promising, but the industry needs technology that will help reduce the risk in drilling. Now, only one in ten wells yields a commercially viable hot spot. (See recent feature here.)