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The NegaWatt Plant

How to make climate change mitigation pay.

October 8, 2009
Chris Mintzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC

Between 20 and 80 percent of our energy use, he said, is wasted, partly because it is so cheap, partly because we have been trained to be wasteful.

Now in a faraway school building, this concept has become a community investment opportunity—the ECO-Watt project—and this should inspire us to think of similar opportunities on Maui.

The ECO-Watt project took the often heard, but inaccurate concept of the high price of a new energy future and turned it right side up. The project uncovered that there is so much money to be made by shifting our energy patterns, that it may soon be the deciding economic advantage of some countries.

Article Photos

Clean Energy for Maui · Chris Mentzel

The project was a normal 1,100-pupil school. A professional team analyzed the energy and water consumption and used the results to develop specific economic measures. A first glance at the figures surpassed all expectations. More than $250 thousand was spent yearly on energy. A rather conservative estimate came to the conclusion that it would be possible to reduce this amount by $60,000. A technology update of $280,000 would be needed, and it was obvious from these figures that this investment could be repaid in a few years. But the school did not have the funds to go ahead.

At this point, the 1,100 students and their parents got involved, studied the details and made their recommendations. The NegaWatt plant became a corporation and parents and teachers invested gladly. A bank loaned the money and new technology was installed.

Not only did the investors get an excellent return on their money, the contract also gave much-needed funds to the school. After eight years, the corporation could dissolve and the new technology became the property of the school.

The ECO-Watt project is an extraordinary success story. It provides insights and lessons that extend far beyond its home. With some creativity, even a mundane task like saving energy can become profitable and enjoyable for all involved.

Can you think of your own NegaWatt plant project?



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