My Journey from Microsoft to the Cleantech Industry


[This post first appeared on the EnergySavvy blog—Eds.]
In May 2008, I left my corporate software job in search of my next challenge. I had spent 10 years developing software in various product roles mostly at Microsoft.

When I left, I had heard of the hyped-up cleantech space and said to myself, “I don’t know anything about it, but if there’s a way to apply software skills to societal goals in a way that can be valuable, count me in.” Then I learned about energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency Software Challenges Abound

After co-founding an energy efficiency software company, EnergySavvy, in 2008, I’ve been surrounded by interesting software challenges for the last two years. This space has barely had a Web 1.0 (let alone a Web 2.0) and is entering a great modernization phase.

My hope is that this will inspire at least one other software person to think about applying their software skills (h@cker Skillz?) to energy efficiency. So here’s a round up of interesting software challenges. To keep it simple, we’re going to focus in on three areas of high activity: energy monitoring and analytics, energy data, and building analysis.

Energy Monitoring and Analytics

Lots of companies are focused on energy monitoring from real-time smart meter and automation companies like Silver Spring Networks to monthly reporting like OPOWER which compares usage to one’s neighbors. The heart of the idea is if you give more awareness on one’s energy use, you can trigger action.

The challenge is what do you do with energy usage data beside just graph it? Clearly, we as a software community can do better. What about:

* Doing social comparisons aside from just one’s neighbors? How about usage of homes of similar specs such as age and square footage? How about relative to one’s friends or family? In that case you have to normalize for energy prices, energy intensity (energy use per square foot) and wire it up to some kind of social network.

* How about analyzing usage data in aggregate to give users specific goals based on observed achievable savings based on some peer group?

* And what of user interface? Few homeowners are equipped to deal with smart meters, and homeowners often express frustration with the current smart meter tools.

* Most of these monitoring devices completely skip natural gas (let alone oil) usage, so that seems relatively greenfield albeit hard.

If you’re a network protocol hacker, you should check out ZigBee, which is often the protocol of choice for energy monitoring objects in the house. Also, check out OpenEnergyMonitor.

Residential Energy Data

One of the issues of doing residential energy efficiency at scale is identifying where … Next Page »

Aaron Goldfeder is the co-founder and CEO of EnergySavvy, a Seattle-based energy-efficiency software company. He is a former Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft. Follow @

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