Digital Lumens, Finding Its Identity, Brings Cost and Energy Savings to Light

5/23/13Follow @gthuang

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that, according to industry projections, in the next 10 years we’ll see more energy saved from lighting control than that produced by new solar, wind, and other renewable installations combined.

That’s a sobering prediction—but it speaks to the potential impact of the company and its peers. And, of course, if Digital Lumens does go on to become a big player, the beleaguered U.S. cleantech industry will be quick to claim it as a success story.

At least one prominent observer thinks the cleantech downturn has been exaggerated in some circles—and that Digital Lumens’ market is a “nice growth opportunity area.”

Ian Bowles, the former secretary of energy and environmental affairs for Massachusetts (he’s now an investor with WindSail Capital Group), says that “cleantech has actually shown steady and impressive growth.” As he sees it, “The industry has made a transition away from tech development into rapid deployment. Industries like energy efficiency and solar are booming despite a small but high-profile handful of tech companies going bust.”

On the smart-lighting front, Bowles says, “LEDs are here to stay, and folks like Digital Lumens who are integrating/installing and finding savings have a nice business model that will continue to grow as costs come down.” (Bowles is not involved with the company.)

He adds that Massachusetts now spends more per capita on energy efficiency than any other state—and that legislation in that subsector is really done at the state (not federal) level. That would seem to bode well for Digital Lumens, in terms of regional support and customer adoption. (Though the company is also shooting for about 25 percent of its installations to be outside of North America.)

Yet Bowles would admit that cleantech venture capital has been a mess in recent years—in part because VCs “didn’t focus on disruptive business models,” he says. “In some cases, they got killed by betting heavily into solar, which the Chinese made into a commodity much quicker than anyone expected. In other cases, like [energy] storage, the cycle is long and utilities are risk-averse.” Despite the ups and downs of the VC industry, he says, plenty of businesses are “growing explosively.”

Which is all to say that many groups have a lot riding on Digital Lumens’ future—from its VCs to the state of Massachusetts, and from cleantech and hardware startups to big lighting companies. Not to mention its own founders, team, customers, and partners. No pressure though.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • Mojo

    Christmas decorations not the stupid Bay Lights Project brought brought mainstream visibility to LEDs.