I've just got back from having a coffee with Martin Gibson of venture capitalists Atlas Venture, who had plenty of interesting things to say about the current market for clean tech investment, the importance of government subsidies and the emergence of wet renewables (more of which at a later date).
He also mentioned in passing a wonderful term he had recently come across that might just have wide-reaching repercussions for the clean tech market if it could only gain some traction.
The word in question is Negawatt.
It is a term so elegantly self-explanatory I'm not sure it even needs defining, but just in case it describes a watt of electricity that was never created due to improvements in energy efficiency.
Gibson came across the term in a recent book on clean tech investment, but it was apparently first coined as far back as 1989 by US physicist and environmentalist Amory Lovins when he found a typo of the word megawatt in a report and realised it perfectly described a unit of energy that had not been used.
Various attempts have since been made to turn the concept into a commodity through capping agreements between energy suppliers and customers that allow the customer to sell any units of energy that they don't use back to the supplier.
But for me the power of the term comes not in the negawatt as a hypothetically tradeable commodity but in the word itself.
It will hardly come as a surprise that as a journalist I believe firmly in the power of words and their ability to challenge perceptions. It is a journalism 101 lesson that active words are more powerful than their passive counterparts, that addition is more exciting than subtraction, that more is good and less is nowhere, and it is against this backdrop that the idea of a negawatt works so well.
For example, which is the more powerful statement: we've reduced our energy consumption or we've generated more negawatts?
It is a well-documented problem in the clean tech sector that glamorous renewable energy projects find it easier to secure backing than less exciting but often more effective technologies that enhance energy efficiency or reduce emissions from highly polluting industries.
Meanwhile, countless businesses appear more interested in headline-grabbing solar panels or carbon offsetting projects than they are in lagging and turning off lights.
I'm not suggesting that widespread adoption of the term negawatt would entirely reverse this reality, but it is not unrealistic to argue that the idea of measuring saved energy as a unit generated would help focus executives' minds on the benefits of energy efficiency.
So let's start the campaign here and now - it's time to start generating negawatts.
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