Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate
It was over a decade ago, when I lived in Stamford that I used to visit the house of Elton Sherwin. He was a friend from church who shared some of my fascination with using technology to address social issues of the day. Climate change wasn’t as hot a topic back in those days, but we were both interested in how technology could be used to help us more efficiently use energy and he had a fascinating thermostat.
The typical thermostat checks to see if the temperature in a room is less than the desired temperature. If it is, the heat comes on. When the temperature goes above the desired temperature, the heat goes off. It is a very simple device. However, it is not the most efficient way of maintaining the desired temperature of a room. Different heat sources behave different ways. Forced hot air heats pretty quickly once it is turned on and stops heating pretty quickly when it is turned off. Electric heating has a little bit of a lag. It takes a little while for the elements to heat up when it gets turned on, and it takes a little while for them to cool off when they get turned off. Steam radiators can be even worse. It can take quite a while for them to get hot. Then, they stay hot long after the furnace has shut down.
Elton had a thermostat that would learn the behavior of the heating system and more efficiently control when to turn on and off the heat. Add to this the ability to have multiple zones and the ability to set different temperatures at different times, and you could have a much more efficient heating system that would keep all the rooms at much more desirable temperatures.
Elton moved out to California where he has been working as a venture capitalist for many years. So, it was little surprise when I learned about his new book, Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate
I have not had the opportunity to read it yet, but I took a quick look at some sections of it. For example, using the ‘Look Inside!’ functionality of Amazon, I randomly turned to page 85 with suggestion 25: “Post All Utility Bills on the Internet”. This is aimed at State Governments, and Elton observes that “without real data, your state will flounder and waste billions”. He poses questions like how much electricity, oil, and natural gas does each state building use? Who were the architects and HVAC contractors for the building? What is the cost per square foot to heat, cool, and light each building? He doesn’t ask how much each architect or HVAC contractor has contributed to the campaigns of various elected officials, but this is information a good researcher should be able to ferret out to get additional information.
What I like about this idea is that there is something for everyone. For the climate change activist, there is the desire to help governments reduce their carbon footprints. Yet even for the skeptic or denier, there is the aspect of reducing government waste and inefficiency and for the open government activist there is more data being made available for traditional journalists, bloggers, and anyone else who is interested in getting a better understanding of how the government is being run.
It seems like this is a great book to get for friends for the holidays, especially if you have friends running for Governor or involved in Gubernatorial campaigns.