Any company that has a grid-connected or energy efficiency-related technology should take advantage of applying to our process with Austin Energy. In addition, we are looking at other potential corporate partners where we can test clean technologies that are not necessarily attached to the grid - biofuels, industrial efficiency, etc.

Joel Serface - Clean Enerrgy Incubator

Joel Serface

EarthToys Interview
Any company that has a grid-connected or energy efficiency-related technology should take advantage of applying to our process with Austin Energy. In addition, we are looking at other potential corporate partners where we can test clean technologies that are not necessarily attached to the grid - biofuels, industrial efficiency, etc.
Joel Serface
Director, Clean Energy Incubator
http://www.cleanenergyincubator.org

1. What is the purpose of the Clean Energy Incubator being offered by Austin Energy?

We were created in 2001 by the Austin Technology Incubator, part of the University of Texas at Austin's IC2 Institute, and National Renewable Energy Lab to build the first clean energy incubator in the nation. The Clean Energy Incubator identifies new clean technologies often at the idea or proof-of-principle stage and provides the resources for them to grow into self-sufficient companies. As part of this process, we identify leading trends in the clean energy space, screen prospective companies against the best available technologies in the industry, review the team and their needs (with our own panel of advisors - often successful technology entrepreneurs themselves), and develop a plan to help them to be successful. The plan often includes building the team, identifying technology partners (University of Texas, corporate, etc.), defining target markets/channels, determining capital needs, and introducing them to team members, advisors, and partners that will help them achieve their plan. We hold regular meetings, much like board meetings, to monitor their progress.

Austin Energy is in the business of providing reliable, clean, and affordable energy to the Austin community. The City of Austin has set ambitious goals for Austin Energy that will continue it down the path of being one of the greenest and innovative utilities in the nation. With this in mind, Austin Energy is aggressively looking for the "next big technologies" that will allow them to achieve these goals. Recognizing CEI's ability to screen and build companies and Austin Energy's ability to adopt and deploy these technologies, we, including city leaders, realized that an economic relationship made sense. Together, we can quickly identify leading ideas and accelerate them to market. Many energy technology start-ups run out of capital before they have received customer validation. This relationship eliminates the major mode of market failure in the early validation and adoption of new energy technologies.

2. How does the process work? Can you give us an example?

This is a bi-directional process where start-up companies come to either the Clean Energy Incubator or Austin Energy. In most cases, we will look at the companies together. The Clean Energy Incubator will look at it more from a perspective as to what is needed from a business-building perspective whether the company can viably scale its business in order to serve its customer-base, typically utilities like Austin Energy. Austin Energy will look at the technical performance and the scaled economics of deploying a start-up's solution. Together, we can make better decisions what types of companies we invite into the incubator and what might be adopted by Austin Energy.

We are currently looking at several technologies together and hopefully will be able to announce the progress of this effort by the time we hold our conference, the Austin Clean Energy Venture Summit on May 15-16.

3. Who benefits from it and in what form do the benefits take?

Everyone in Austin should benefit from our partnership. For the city, this agreement will allow it to achieve its climate change targets faster, attract new cleantech companies to move to Austin, create new jobs, and extend its leadership as green city. For Austin Energy and its customers, it will increase predictability and reliability of energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing cleaner energy, and potentially lowering the cost of energy. For companies, it will give them additional early market validation and accelerate their path to market. For the Clean Energy Incubator, it increases our reach and depth to identify the best new ideas in the industry whether they originate in Austin or elsewhere.

4. Who should take advantage of the Clean Energy Incubator?

Simply, any company that has a grid-connected or energy efficiency-related technology should take advantage of applying to our process with Austin Energy. In addition, we are looking at other potential corporate partners where we can test clean technologies that are not necessarily attached to the grid - biofuels, industrial efficiency, etc.

5. How does a company qualify to participate?

The simplest way for a company to take part in this program is applying directly to the Clean Energy Incubator through our website: http://www.cleanenergyincubator.org. Another path would be applying to participate in our conference in May where we will be highlighting technologies from start-ups to an audience of venture capitalists, utility executives, and Austin Energy (http://www.cleanenergyventuresummit.com). 

6. For the past three years, Austin Energy has been ranked as the No. 1 green energy program in the country by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Why?

The success of Austin Energy's Green Choice program is attributable to the citizens of Austin, both corporate and private, as well as the City leader's unique commitment to making the city a clean place to live. The utility has structured a program that allows the citizens to help realize this goal, while at the same time getting a great deal for themselves and the community.

7. Looking forward 5 years ... what portion of the energy generated and distributed by utilities such as Austin Energy will be from Alternative / Renewable sources? How about 10 years? 20 years?

The City of Austin has set ambitious goals for renewable energy. By 2020, we expect to have 30% of the city's energy produced from renewable sources. Further, the city expects its infrastructure to be carbon neutral by that time by using green building techniques, adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, implementation of smart grid technologies, and purchasing carbon offsets.

8. What role can the average energy consumer play to assist utilities in faster adoption of Alternative Energy Solutions?

Consumers need to learn about and take advantage of Austin Energy's programs in order to foster the adoption of smarter energy solutions. Austin Energy already has incentives in place for solar, green building, and energy efficiency upgrades. It also has the largest green power purchasing program in the nation. With stronger targets set by the city leadership, I would expect that additional incentives will be put in place allowing for customer education and adoption of solutions that will be of benefit to the community and to our planet.

Commercial customers also benefit from energy efficiency incentives provided by Austin Energy. By learning about and working with Austin Energy, better solutions can be defined benefiting the commercial customers and the community. The Clean Energy Incubator is also looking at specific solutions that would benefit both Austin Energy and its commercial customers in future test programs and roll-outs.

 

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