Efficiency start-up bets on greener colleges

With colleges and universities feeling the heat to act on the environment, Energy Climate Solutions launches with energy efficiency and sustainability services.

Long-time energy efficiency professional Rob Pratt created a company to tap into the energy on college campuses around the environment.

Energy Climate Solutions, which formally launched on Thursday, was set up to offer energy efficiency and clean-energy services to colleges and universities, organizations typically well suited to invest in efficiency.

"College presidents are the ones who have the mission of figuring out a sustainability story and what to do about green," Pratt said. "They are being pushed--one president told me, 'This is my Vietnam. Not all the students are pushing (to lower carbon emissions), but the ones in my face are.'"

The Waltham, Mass .-based company, which has started working with Babson University and Clark University, is offering services to help colleges create a strategy to lower energy consumption through investments in energy-efficiency and potentially renewable energy. For example, a university can upgrade lighting and heating systems to be more efficient or invest in a more efficient geothermal system .

Unlike traditional energy service companies, though, Energy Climate Solutions also plans to work with colleges on behavior changes, such as working with campus facilities staff to operate buildings more efficiently or enticing students to turn off unused computers and lights. "Students are really into this and are willing to push administrations. And it works for administrations because it goes right to the bottom line," Pratt said.

Unlike businesses, colleges typically own buildings so are more willing to invest in longer-term projects. And colleges have flexibility in financing, he added.

Investors expect that the area of energy efficiency will be a good area for new company creation. But services-oriented efficiency companies typically don't fit with the venture-capital model , which is geared toward technology companies.

So far, Energy Climate Solutions has been funded by individuals and a subsidiary of utility National Grid. "If we are really going to make progress with climate change, we have to be profitable business. Otherwise, we are not going to get it done," Pratt said.

 

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