Ottawa’s Lixar SRS gets snatched up by GridPoint

I’ll have more to say on this acquisition in a few days, but wanted to draw attention to GridPoint’s purchase of Lixar SRS, a scrappy but secretive energy management startup in Ottawa/Toronto that within the utility sector has attracted a lot of well-deserved attention. GridPoint, which has raised more than $200 million in venture capital, has been using that money to bolster its smart-grid software offerings. With Lixar is gets a flexible, user-friendly, cleverly designed energy management and demand-response system that works over multiple protocols and through any Web connection, be it PC-based, BlackBerry or iPhone. I’ve seen it in action and, in my humble opinion, it’s an impressive product.

While it’s a shame to see another promising Canadian venture scooped up by a foreign company, it seems GridPoint is serious about building up its Canadian presence and plans to more than double Lixar’s numbers in Ottawa. Lixar has built up quite a following within the industry, and it has done so quietly. Again, I’ll have more on that in a few days… stay tuned. But for background on what Lixar has done in Ontario, click here.

UPDATE: Wrote an article last week that mentions more details on Lixar and its acquisition by GridPoint. Among the insights: “Back in November, few would have noticed that Lixar signed an exclusive distribution deal with HD Supply, which sells wholesale supplies to utilities, construction companies and other industrial customers. (Home Depot sold off HD Supply in 2007 for $10.4 billion). Through that relationship, Lixar has landed substantial smart-grid pilot projects with major U.S. utilities Xcel Energy and Progress Energy. Industry sources say the company is also working with Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light and National Grid, as well as Cisco. Neither GridPoint nor Lixar would confirm those relationships.”

Chu uses “very cool” Wayne Gretzky metaphor, says Obama

Gretzky_processI just had to point this out ’cause it made me laugh. President Obama had a Q&A session Sunday with reporters about Friday’s House vote on the U.S. clean energy bill. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Carol Browner, the White House coordinator on energy and climate policy, also sat in. First, I urge you to read the Q&A, which was published online by the New York Times. It never ceases to amaze me how knowledgeable and well-spoken Obama is on the energy file. He truly *gets it*.

At one point in the interview, Chu made the following comment:

Well, I just want to reiterate what the President said in terms of how do you prepare the United States for the future — with some reasonable certainty we’re going to be looking towards higher oil and gas prices 10, 20 years from today. I think what the contractors are finding out about the climate, especially in the last five years, we will be looking at a carbon constrained economy, whether it’s two years from now or 10 years from now.

So this is an opportunity for the United States to say that’s where the puck is going to be — to quote Wayne Gretzky — 10 or 20 years from now this is where it’s going to be, so why don’t we meet in this new industrial revolution, meaning that we’re going to get energy, abundant energy, the clean energy. So we have the ability to lead.

Obama then chimes in:

I just want to point out my Secretary of Energy used a *very cool* Wayne Gretzky metaphor.

Then Chu continues:

You know, here’s this skinny kid who is arguably the greatest hockey player in the world. And they say how — and he says, I position myself on the ice. Well, how do you do it? I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been. And so for decades we’ve been trying to figure out how to — you know, this is where we wanted it — do we want it back to 1950? Well, it isn’t going to be back to 1950. And so this bill begins to say to America this is where it’s going to be and so why don’t we take the industrial lead on this.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the “where the puck is going to be” line in Canadian political speeches, particularly as it relates to energy. It’s become somewhat cliche here in Canada, so to hear Chu saying it kind of made me chuckle. Gretzky, of course, is a great Canadian. It’s ironic, given that the Canadian federal government appears to have lost sight of the puck.

U.S. House narrowly passes Waxman-Markey. Up next: Senate

It’s not enough. It’s too much. It will kill jobs. It will create jobs. If there’s one thing about climate politics, it’s tough to make anyone, let alone everyone, happy. Sure, Waxman-Markey isn’t the kind of tough-ass climate legislation many environmentalists were hoping for, but what’s the reality of scrapping it, starting from scratch and getting something better? Nil.

Fact is, it’s better than what was there before. And considering the U.S. position on climate issues only a year ago, it’s a pretty spectacular feat to pass this kind of legislation in the House in the middle of an economic recession. It’s better than what Canada has, I’m sad to say. And I’m counting on the fact that this piece of law — assuming it can be pushed through the U.S. Senate — will light a fire  blowtorch under Canada’s federal government. It’s not perfect, but it lays the foundation. At the very least, it positions that U.S. battleship in the direction of its target, when not so long ago that ship was completely off course.

Congrats to my U.S. readers and friends on this landmark vote in the House. As former vice-president Al Gore remarked this evening in a published statement, “We are at an extraordinary moment, with an historic opportunity to confront one of the world’s most serious challenges. Our actions now will be remembered by this generation and all those to follow — in our own nation and others around the world.”

Here, here.

A million flushes can generate some serious power

I’m more and more appreciating the potential role that biogas production will play as our economy moves away from fossil fuels. I have a story today on Toronto Hydro’s efforts to build a 10-megawatt generation facility in the city’s east end that would burn biogas pumped in from a neighbouring wastewater treatment facility. In return, the byproduct thermal energy from the generation process will be sent back to the treatment facility, which relies on heat for a variety of applications. This kind of co-generation setup makes oodles of sense and can — and should — be replicated across other municipalities. The Ashbridge’s Bay treatment facility in Toronto’s east end is ideal because of its size. As the largest facility of its kind in the country, it treats the wastewater that’s flushed from 1.3 million residents.

The opportunities to tap energy from decaying biomass are seemingly endless. Cavendish Farms, a maker of potato products in Prince Edward Island, recently announced the commissioning of a facility that turns potato waste into biogas, which is then used in the boilers of the potato processing plant. Continue reading A million flushes can generate some serious power

When new energy-efficient technology merely encourages waste

Got an interesting package in the mail yesterday from lighting giant Sylvania, which is introducing a new line of LED-lit products. One is a bottle stopper — you know, those plastic corks you use to store an opened a bottle of wine? But this isn’t just any bottle stopper. Moulded within are two watch batteries that power an LED light that changes colors. The idea is that when you have guests over, you can impress them by lighting up the bottle of wine at the centre of the table. They also have drink coasters and place mats that do the same, creating a light show on the dining room table.

This wouldn’t be possible without LED efficiency. But it also shouldn’t be possible. It’s pointless. It merely encourages more waste. The batteries in most cases can’t be replaced. The batteries run out after 60 hours of use, after which most people will be inclined to chuck the item in the garbage.

This is a prime example of new energy-efficient technology enabling more consumption, more waste. “While seemingly perverse, improvements in energy efficiency result in more of the good being consumed – not less,” said Jeff Rubin in 2007 when he was chief economist at CIBC World Markets. He cited the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, which argues that “as improvements in energy efficiency lower the cost effective cost of energy relative to what otherwise would have prevailed, the resulting substitution and income effects that flow from any price change result in more of the good being consumed.”

The battery-powered LED bottle stopper and coasters may be small examples of the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate in action, but they all add up. It warns us that technology alone won’t save the day, and in some cases can set us back.