Tom Siebel, who made a big pile of money in the '90s by founding Siebel Systems, is trying to squeeze into green.

Siebel is trying to put together a contest that will encourage companies to come up with HVAC systems and other technologies for relatively affordable, zero-energy homes. "They will be grid connected, but after 365 days the meter should read zero," he said during the Global Technology Leadership Conference taking place at UC Berkeley today.

The contest, which is still under construction, will come with a few rules. For one thing, the homes have to be something the average American would want to live in. "You can't solve the problem by sitting in the dark and freezing to death," he said.

Second, they have to be cheap. Green homes now are generally bought by rich people in communities like Woodside, California. "They cost $1,000 a square foot" and are generally huge, he argued. Builders have also been reluctant to get into the market although that has been changing. (In a conference earlier this month, for instance, I learned that Webcor, the largest builder in California, earned more revenue from LEED buildings in its most recent quarter than traditional construction. Imagine that.)

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