5 questions with Nat Goldhaber

Energy efficiency is a big issue and Nat Goldhaber knows a thing or two about it.

The managing director of Claremont Creek Ventures once was the interim director of the Governor’s Energy Council in Pennsylvania and found himself in the middle of the Three Mile Island crisis in 1979. Since then he’s kept on eye on energy issues, especially efficiency.

These days, Goldhaber’s looking at four to five startups a day. He’s backed Adura, a mesh-networking startup that can help big office buildings manage their lighting, and he is close to investing in one of three companies that can improve the efficiency of air conditioning systems.

PE Week Senior Writer Alexander Haislip recently caught up with Goldhaber for five quick questions:

Q: What can Adura do to save businesses money?


A big office building will probably save in the neighborhood of half of their lighting bill. It’s the second biggest expense, after air conditioning, and can account for 30% to 50% of the electricity of the building. What’s more, when we install Adura systems in an office building, there’s a wireless control network in place. The number of things you can hang on top of that is infinite, such as light sensors around the outside of the building that can monitor the amount of light coming into the windows and turn off the electric lights near windows if needed.

Q: What about improving energy efficiency at home?

A: It’s incredibly likely that our next investment will be in home energy efficiency. I don’t think what Adura is doing has broad applicability in the home space. In the home, there’s millions of things you can do to promote energy conservation, but controlling the lighting is not one of the big issues.

Q: So where do you see opportunities in the home?


It is usually the case that there’s a single thermostat that controls the whole house. Very few homes have zoning. It is clearly the case that if one member of a family is home during the day and spends most of the time in the kitchen, you don’t have to air condition the whole house. But it might be prudent to turn the temperature down during the summer 20 minutes before the rest of the family comes home and occupies those rooms. It’s likely to save 10% and maybe as much as 30% to 40 percent.

Q: Have you seen any impact in what the government is doing to stimulate green building and retrofitting?


There was a lot of noise about green jobs. The homes in the U.S. consume about 40% of all the electricity consumed in the U.S. It is a ripe fruit to be picked from an environmental perspective, but difficult to implement. Those things could easily been done and be done by unskilled labor, folks that are trained in doing that very quickly. I have not seen any evidence that that is actually happening, that the stimulus money is going to create jobs where people go and retrofit homes.

Q: So no effect?


Well there is money for the retrofit of state and federal government buildings, military bases and schools. There’s a lot of small companies that are chasing federal dollars. Some of them are getting it. The risk, from my perspective of a VC is that someday that money will disappear and when that happens, if those companies aren’t established to get money on their own, they won’t.