Thursday, May 07, 2015

Getting Energetic At ETCC Quarterly Meeting

I attended the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (ETCC) quarterly meeting in San Francisco last week.  They were "Charting the Course to Integrated Solutions" this time at PG+E's SOMA complex.  It made perfect sense to convene talks on building integrated solutions at one of the best local clearinghouses for the topic.  I was charting my own course to building systems knowledge and free food.  All of those elements were on hand.

The ETCC's support for early tech development reminds me of the Federal Laboratory Consortium's CRADA programs.  The TRIO outreach to investors and analysts is especially noteworthy; once I'm on the TRIO invitation list my genius should prove indispensable.  Someone mentioned a widely published report on green portfolios and REITs that more people in the finance sector should read.  Finance types should also review the handbooks at Savings by Design and New Buildings Institute to see how developers are designing construction projects that will command premium rents.

I have heard engineering and design professionals discuss biomimetics as an efficient design principle.  One ETCC speaker mentioned biophilia as if it were the next evolution in design.  I would like to see how that plays out.  Biomimetics gives us individual devices and structures that look like they came from the natural environment's sustainable processes.  Biophilia should link those devices to larger social systems.

Public domain statistics on zero net energy (ZNE) buildings show California leading the US.  This implies a large addressable market for things like IoT components that snap into efficient buildings.  The growth of solar tech and integrated energy storage solutions is getting lots of buzz.  Let's see the stats from market leaders.  Tesla Motors and SolarCity are pumping that hype machine for all it's worth.

I was not surprised to learn that finance types in the energy sector lack the technical competence to evaluate a product's viability.  The claim that PACE providers of integrated packages are typically more creditworthy than mortgage lenders reflects this lack of understanding.  Financing a new building upgrade with a PACE assessment can easily lead to wasted investments if the proposed retrofit technology doesn't deliver as promised.

The experts on hand revealed that obtaining ZNE benefits through retrofit is still difficult with CPUC code restrictions that discourage improvements in older buildings.  Larger frameworks like ecodistricts and energy use intensity (EUI) encourage developers to think beyond the ROI of a single building when redeveloping a neighborhood.  Developers are learning how to charge premium rents for ZNE buildings by calculating accelerated lease-ups and lower operating expenses after retrofits.

Finance people who need to recalculate the ROIs of ZNE targets can find helpful data at UC Berkeley's Center for the Built Environment and DOE LBL's Flexlab.  Peer-reviewed technical data isn't just for engineers and architects.  It matters in calculating the added rent per square foot a ZNE building earns.  Find the energy cost savings first, fellow analysts.

I'm certain that geospatial Big Data on sunshine, wind, and cloud cover  will play a role in optimizing a ZNE building for a local climate.  Analytics are the low-hanging fruit of any disruptive opportunity in building construction.  Building systems are complex and diverse standards complicate integration.  A unified data source of best practices would be a valuable and disruptive tool for real estate developers.  I'd like to see the UC Berkeley and DOE tools include APIs that make monetizing the data easy.

I have not heard the last of ETCC's bright ideas.  The startups I mentor in the Cleantech Open will be glad that I'm on top of these developments.  Forget the finance sector people who don't know what they're talking about.  Alfidi Capital suffers no such deficiency because I know where to look for data.