Climate change is the most serious threat to human existence, but I’m not here to make you feel bad about it. If I preach about how you should go vegan or drive less, you might get overwhelmed and move to your next browser tab.
Nor do I want to inundate you with climate change’s complexities — the amount of oil we need to leave in the ground as we transition to 100 percent clean energy; the need to capture carbon dioxide from the air; the ramifications of a global population growing to 10 billion. Look that up on your own time if you want.
Rather, I’m here to discuss something that’s not being talked about enough: climate change solutions are being deployed everywhere with some of the top techs du jour in today’s venture scene: machine learning, predictive analytics, big data and Internet of Things are quietly making a massive impact toward a more sustainable planet.
That impact is becoming greater by the day as our buildings — which consume half of the United States’ energy and account for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in places like New York City — are getting smarter through the use of data. And, as some larger tech companies could tell you, having more data makes your subject easier to manipulate. Just as Amazon is manipulating you to buy its branded batteries, tech companies are manipulating buildings to waste less energy.
Here are examples:
Sealed, a company my group invested in, is using machine learning to look at big data sets of energy usage across many homes, and then zoom in on an individual home to find areas where energy efficiency can be improved. The platform then makes recommendations to consumers about home upgrades (new appliances, insulation, smart meters, etc.) that can save both energy and money. Customers who use Sealed make their payments for these improvements based on what they save, which, if you’re keeping score at home, makes Sealed a fintech company too. Sealed is early stage and has just several hundred customers, but the team has aspirations to serve over 100,000 US homes in the coming years.
EnerAllies, a group with which I have no personal involvement, has a very elegant IoT solution to remotely manage energy usage in small retail and restaurant spaces. By letting EnerAllies intelligently control things as simple as when to turn heating and cooling systems on and off, business owners can save thousands of dollars in operating expenses. It also removes the headaches of managing their own internal systems. EnerAllies will soon be in over 1000 buildings.
These examples started with homes and worked up to small buildings — now let’s talk about energy usage in our largest edifices. The company tackling that is called Carbon Lighthouse, which places hundreds of sensors in buildings to create massive datasets to find opportunities to reduce energy waste and potentially add other solutions like solar panels. Carbon Lighthouse is in over 500 buildings in 16 states today.
Your grandpa’s energy company shoveled coal into a furnace. Today’s energy companies are using tech to make everyone a smarter energy consumer, in a financially beneficial way, without having to think about it much. Not a bad way to help save the world.
Benjamin Wolkon is manager of sustainable investments at MUUS Asset Management Co. “The Technology of Energy” will be a main topic at the Techonomy 2018 conference this November 11-13 in Half Moon Bay, California. Learn more.