The Prism of Energy Spells Opportunity

The easy money in renewable energy remains in energy efficiency.

The formula for profit here is simple. Take your price, take the amount of energy your solution saves, estimate the pay-back time for the customer’s investment. Remind them that once the investment is paid-off everything else becomes free money.

A system with low incremental cost, like a social network matchmaker that also helps people car pool based on locations, times, and personalities, that’s some easy money. If you cut the cost of a 20-mile commute in half for someone, that’s an app worth paying for.

Most opportunities in producing renewable energy will show a similar type of math. Selling solar water heaters? Take the cost of the system and the money saved on a natural gas bill so you can estimate how long the pay-out time is.

If you can add a secondary benefit, your sales cycle gets shorter. Say you want to automate home utilities to save consumers energy costs. Can you add home security to that? Turn on the sprinklers at night (and turn them off, say, 10 minutes later)? Those are extras, no charge.

Ever thought about a car pool for delivery services? Think of it as a commercial ZipCar. Logistics.

Here’s something I’d do if I had a little capital. Electric bikes. They cost just a few hundred dollars, they have a range suitable for in-town commuting and errands, they save gas over every car and motorcycle, even scooter, around. Or build services around them – who really needs a car to deliver pizza? Look mom, no Spandex! I just wrote your ad copy.

The lower the capital cost to the consumer, the more gas or electricity you save, the faster the pay-back you can claim and the more money you make. As you rack up sales, the economy grows. As consumers save money, they have more to spend on other things, and the economy grows.

Point is, you don’t have to be selling million dollar wind farms to make good money in renewable energy. You don’t even have to sell energy. Just show people how to save some, without compromising their current life styles and you’re putting money in their pockets.

Money to grow the economy.

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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog,, in 2007.

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