Clean Energy at DoD's Energy Excelerator Competition

12/06/2013 09:43 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2014

The United States remains the world's biggest spender on military operations, with about 43 percent of the world's total spending. The Russian Federation, China, France and the United Kingdom round out the top five countries in terms of spending (though, as Howard Steven Friedman points out, absolute spending is not the only way to measure military expenditures). Even accounting for per capita expenditures and percentages of GDP, the U.S. is outpacing the world, despite its economic challenges and efforts at austerity measures.

Recently, the Department of Defense (DoD) has invested heavily in making our armed forces more mobile, strategic, and self-reliant, however, much of that has translated into what you might refer to as clean tech. Mobile solar arrays give soldiers in the field a chance to refuel without having to risk their lives to find supply lines, and renewable energy solutions help power bases and break their reliance on imported fuels. According to the DoD's June 2012 report called Energy Investments for Military Operations: "Improvements in military energy security provide the Department with a unique opportunity to improve efficiency while increasing operational effectiveness."

In this vein, the Department of Defense committed 30 million in investments to the Hawaii based Energy Excelerator, a clean tech incubator that will help mentor, fund and scale some great clean tech companies. The criteria for the competition included that the companies funded needed to be highly scalable, and be able to "pay it forward" by helping the DoD reduce its dependence on foreign oil and other nonrenewable/non-domestic sources of energy, with good reason: Last year the DoD spent 20 billion (with a B) on oil, and was the world's largest consumer of energy (a fact that is not likely to change anytime soon).

It's not just jet fuels, tanks and cargo vessels, either. The U.S. military provides a housing allowance to military families of more than $2,700 per month here in Hawaii. Military households do not pay their own utility bills, and the results are predictable: Compared to similar sized houses where tenants do pay their own utility bills, the average consumption is about double. With an average cost of 35 cents per kilowatt an hour (about three times the national average), that spells trouble for the DoD here in Hawaii, so coming up with a solution for home energy efficiency is critical.

Thus, there was a strong emphasis on energy efficiency in the Energy Excelerator's selected winners. Overall, the incubator chose 6 growth stage companies and 9 seed stage companies to receive non-dilutive financing from the DoD competition. Take a look below at some of the energy efficiency winners:

Effortless Energy | Effortless Energy integrates innovative finance with technology and marketing to make energy efficiency the no-brainer it ought to be.

Open Power Quality | Open Power Quality is the catalyst for crowd sourcing power quality data collection.

Oroeco | Oroeco is developing a social platform to empower users to align their personal values with their everyday spending, investment, and lifestyle decisions.

People Power | People Power turns smartphones into smart homes by enabling homeowners to control and monitor all of their electrical devices.

Pono Home | Pono Home helps people reduce their utility costs through auditing, infrastructural changes, and occupant education, all in a one-time service. (Check out a review of Pono Home here).

We hope that these startups will be able to reduce DoD dependence on foreign oil (which is what our whole power grid is powered by here in Hawaii), and scale strongly to help provide the DoD (and the private sector) some much needed efficiency solutions.