Santa Barbara – A Center for Clean Energy Innovation

Across California, businesses and individuals alike are revolutionizing energy consumption. The state has become a leader in shaping the future of energy consumption and cities within are following suit. Santa Barbara, for one, has blossomed into a networking center for tech-focused ideas that solve energy problems.

California: The Ultimate Role Model

California’s clean energy revolution has been underway for the last decade. As the cost of utilizing renewable resources  has decreased dramatically, the implementation and use of clean energy sources has increased exponentially. The Golden State is renowned for setting and meeting ambitious goals to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard Program, as an example, is a market-based policy requiring utilities to deliver 50% of their retail electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2030; the University of California, Santa Barbara has pledged to go carbon-neutral by the year 2025; and in the most recent election Californians voted to ban single-use plastic bags. This leadership role is deep rooted and will continue to inspire progressive changes.  

Since the 1969 Santa Barbara Channel oil spill, community members have forged a strong environmental consciousness defined by public education, problem solving and passion. The 1970s marked a period of eco-consciousness, which catalyzed several historically significant political advances such as the creation of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. In an effort to demonstrate support for environmental protection, Santa Barbara locals were one of the driving forces in establishing Earth Day on April 22. Santa Barbara now hosts its own annual Earth Day Festival, attracting tens of thousands. Today, more than a billion people from 193 countries actively participate in elevating the status of environmental issues.  

Figure 1. Nearly 30,000 people attend Earth Day Festival in Santa Barbara, CA

Considering California’s history of leadership, innovation, and success, it is clear that moving forward on green initiatives will remain a top priority.

The speakers featured at the upcoming Green Drinks share a vision for California – and America’s future. From expanding the network of electric vehicle owners to designing cost-effective solar technology to training innovators to build sustainability-geared companies, California’s economy has the support and resources to shift dependence away from fossil fuels and create new jobs in the clean energy sector.

EVmatch

Air pollution can be a tragedy of the commons; a term coined by the University of California, Santa Barbara professor Garrett Hardin. When people indiscriminately use and pollute a common resource without any specific group taking responsibility for long-term sustainability management, it can easily become over-exploited. Our government has assumed partial responsibility for this issue by adopting regulatory policies, which successfully reduced the amount of air pollution from the transportation sector by 68% compared to 1970 levels. However, it has been half a century since then, and it is time for new progress and technology to be embraced. By dramatically increasing the number of electric vehicles (EV) on the road, there is an opportunity to further improve the quality of air we breathe every day. California is known for its high volume of drivers, so reducing this major source of carbon will bring us closer to a sustainable future.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with co-founders of EVmatch Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker, to hear about their vision of reducing the impact of California’s transportation sector on greenhouse gas emissions. Together, these eco-entrepreneurs set out to increase the prevalence of electric vehicles on the road. After months of market research, one issue stood out to them: there simply aren’t enough public charging stations to support today’s EVs.These stations are the critical counterpart to EVs and hard to come by for many with non-traditional lifestyles.

EVmatch has created an online marketplace for both private and corporate charging station owners to share their underutilized stations. EVmatch can increase public charging access by 400% by simply bringing private stations into the public sphere. If you only charge a single EV at night, why not rent your driveway space during the day to other owners? You can preregister as a Host to share your station or become a User to reserve stations in advance. Whether you drive a plug-in electric vehicle or full battery-powered one, EVmatch has got you covered.

Figure 2. EVmatch users share their charging stations

Their project was put into action while attending the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. The Bren School supplies motivated innovators with the education, resources and support to build a viable business model, create a strategy for market adoption, and navigate governmental policy. According to Heather, their post graduation transition into the electric vehicle market “feels as though they are part of a movement that is gaining traction everyday. EVmatch fits in at a perfect time where there is a lot of growth. While the industry is expected to grow exponentially within the decade, it is still small with an organic feeling of everyone helping each other out for the common good.” Shannon added one ongoing source of motivation is the positive feedback they receive after sharing their business model with others, particularly other EV drivers.

As proposals develop for more charging stations by companies such as Southern California Edison, IKEA and Walmart, future growth of EVs seems inevitable. They cite market trends which predict a 37% compound annual growth rate trajectory of electric vehicles over the next decade. The societal benefits of increasing the quantity of charging stations range from an improved customer experience by eliminating range anxiety, to better environmental and human health. Overall, EVmatch helps connect and strengthen a community of people driven to be the change they want to see in the world.

Next Energy Technologies Inc.

A team of engineers based in Santa Barbara has successfully produced a revolutionary product – energy producing windows. Advanced printing technology has enabled the design of transparent window coatings, which transform windows into onsite solar energy converters. This innovative startup rose to the challenge of designing a photovoltaic device, which generates electricity from solar cells that does not hinder visibility from a window. NEXT is dedicated to mainstreaming this breakthrough technology to aid the movement toward zero net energy buildings which balance the amount of energy used by a building and the renewable energy produced on-site.

Figure 3. Windows overlooking Santa Barbara generate energy from the sun

Their team has significantly contributed to the future of building design by ensuring their windows have both an aesthetic appeal and economic incentives, cutting the traditional cost of solar in half. This technology pays for itself in one year and delivers over thirty years of clean energy.

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

The function of this impressive business incubator is to accelerate the development of cleantech start-ups by aiding local entrepreneurs in their expansion to bigger markets. LACI transforms innovation into economic growth, and their success is due in part to how well connected they are to their communities. From networking with prominent universities such as UCLA and USC, to private companies and public government agencies, their reach ensures great opportunity for businesses to grow. In 2015, LACI ranked 3rd on the list of the World Top University Associated Business Incubators, and thanks to the efforts of the Community Environmental Council, further expansion of LACI will be brought to satellite locations in Santa Barbara.

Figure 4. Tour of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Customer Engagement Lab, La Kretz collaborative workspace, and Advanced Prototyping Center

Incubators provide an opportunity to further catalyze the clean energy revolution. LACI recently opened La Kretz Innovation Campus in Los Angeles, to provide training, resources, and a hub for entrepreneurs working on ‘out-of-the-box’ energy solutions. The overarching goal is to relieve the United State’s dependence on fossil fuels by stimulating the renewable energy market, which will lead to the development of more sustainable behavior, business, and products.

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Resources

http://www.evmatch.com/

Interview with EVmatch co-founders Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker Nov. 3, 2016.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day

US Glass News Network

Next Energy Technologies Inc. 

 

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