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October 6th, 2009

RMI2009: Applied Hope and Figuring Out How to Move Forward

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Share weekend, the Bright Green Talent team had the pleasure of attending a panel at RMI2009 that consisted of the following environmental heavyweights: Amory Lovins: Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute; Ray Anderson: Founder and Chairman, Interface; Carl Bass: President and CEO, Autodesk; Janine Benyus: Author, Founder of Biomimicry Guild; and  Paul Hawken: Author of Natural Capitalism. all the panelists had incredibly interesting insight to share, Ray Anderson stood out to me with his perspective on how integrating sustainability can improve a business, such as he has seen with Interface.

Here’s a cliff notes version of what he talked about:

  • The “inevitability of the environmental movement”: “Once you get it, you get it.” He pointed out that he’d never met an ex-environmentalist; that is to say, environmentalism is a lens through which you come to see and understand the world, and once you get there, you can’t go back to ignoring environmental externalities and separating growth from resource limitations.
  • The business case for integrating sustainability: For Interface, Anderson said: costs are down, products are better, the people are galvanized, and they’ve received good will from the marketplace. I thought the third point was especially interesting – he talked about how he’s been able to motivate Interface’s employees behind the product and the company, and how each is now an evangelist for the company.
  • Biggest dishonesty in the market: lack of carbon pricing and acknowledging externalities.
  • The state of the green business movement: “still in the stage of early movers and fast followers.” The key will be continuing to push growth and competition so that the whole industry and marketplace is integrating sustainability.
  • Wise words for businesses: “Play to win, rather than not to lose.” He’s been focusing on sensitizing stakeholders, employees, and everyone else to environmental issues to establish Interface as an industry leader.
  • Wise words for individuals: “Brighten the corner where you are, and then make that corner as big as possible.”

Of course, we don’t want to discount the advice and perspective of the other illustrious panelists.

  • Janine Benyus, the biomimicry thought leader, brought up the shift in the environmental movement that she had perceived from scientists learning about nature to learning from nature. She believes there’s been a democratization of innovation – that small, innovative companies are going to break through and help lead the change.
  • Paul Hawken talked about mobilizing the younger generations, his recent commencement speech (worth a read!), and his view on the inaccuracies of macroeconomics (memorable remark to an econ student’s question: “don’t worry about the macroeconomists; one coffin at a time”).
  • Carl Bass of Autodesk talked about integrating sustainability into Autodesk’s programs in order to make sustainability accessible and scalable for designers around the world, and his belief in disruptive innovation.
  • Amory Lovins spoke about his work with RMI (and how he’d worked alongside a lot of the other companies represented on the panel), as well as the importance of emphasizing hope over despair: “hope requires fearlessness.”

Some other coverage of the event:


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September 28th, 2009

Reading Assignment – Three Articles about Hiring and HR

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Three articles popped into my inbox this morning that are worth a read if you’re a jobseeker or if you’re in HR:

U.S. Jobseekers Exceed Openings by Record Ratio (NYTimes)

This chart pretty much sums it up. What it makes me think is how important having an inside connection is – with all those people applying for every job, you need some kind of edge – and a personal recommendation is one of the strongest advantages you can muster.

Unemployed Workers Competing for Limited Job Prospects

Career Couch – Dissecting Why You Were Passed Over for a Promotion (NYTimes)

The take-away here? Don’t be defensive. Useful tips on how to manage the situation and leverage it to improve your chances for being promoted next time around.

Economic Downturn Leading to Decline in Employee Commitment, Morale, Watson Wyatt/WorldatWork Survey Finds Workers Expecting Decline in Value of Rewards Programs

Even those who are in jobs currently are feeling the stress of the downturn. The good news? People who feel they’re working for an ethical, sustainable company tend to feel more commitment to the company and purpose, and are more likely to stay within a company and recommend their friends. More incentive for companies to pursue CSR and sustainability agendas!


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September 14th, 2009

Time Magazine’s Feature on Service and Responsible Business

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Buried in Time Magazine’s September 21 issue, whose lead story was “Out of Work in America” (sigh…), is a feature section on service in America. The section includes a few interesting articles – such as “The Responsibility Revolution” about responsible consumers, “25 Responsibility Pioneers” (which includes a number of our past and present clients), and an interview with President Obama and Michelle Obama around the concept of service in the United States.

While a lot of the content in there and initiatives featured are not new news to people who’ve been in this space for awhile, we take it as a heartening sign that these great companies – RecycleBank, Interface, CleanFish, among others – are getting national mainstream attention.

Another interesting theme that runs throughout is the idea of bringing public responsibility and “citizenship” back to the fore – Time’s poll reported that 68% of respondents thought most Americans do not live up to their responsibilities as citizens, 75% would pay $2000 more to buy a car that gets better gas mileage, and 46% think teh government should require stores to charge for plastic bags in order to encourage use of reusable bags.

This is, of course, all well and good, and more evidence of a heartening trend towards social responsibility at large. We just have to hope that people will actually go out of their way to do and pay for these things. Thomas Friedman’s 2007 editorial on Generation Q comes to mind- how millennials are replacing online activism and mouse-clicking with actual committed activism. There’s a lot to act out on and communicate to businesses and decision-makers – it’s on all of us to make sure we’re not just sitting back and hoping someone else will buy organic or lobby their company to initiate greener practices.

All in all, worth a read – if mostly for the inspiration from the 25 Responsibility Pioneers who’ve taken their beliefs to heart and to business to try to offer consumers more responsible options.

Image: Time Magazine


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August 19th, 2009

30 Electric Vehicle Companies to Keep an Eye On

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There’s been a lot of buzz about the sustainable transport industry – rounds of funding and stimulus promise bring hope that the industry will grow out and create jobs where they’ve been lost in Detroit. Just recently, General Motors announced that the Chevy Volt would get 230 mpg – a claim that has provoked a fair amount of conversation.

We found this great article about 30 Electric Vehicle Companies  Ready to Take Over the Road by Chris Morrison on GreenBeat. A few below… click the link to see all 30.

30 electric cars companies ready to take over the road

frontpic1.jpgIt’s official: Green car madness has taken over. After seeing more electric and hybrid vehicle startups than we could keep track of, we finally decided to start keeping count.

We’ve compiled a list, below, of 27 (update: the list has reached 30; thanks for the comments) startups, listed according to their release date, with additional information on fuel type, range, top speed and price. Most haven’t yet taken venture funding, but where applicable, we’ve listed financial backing.

While we’ve got some overall favorites (Miles, Tesla, Think) and a few favorite oddballs (Aptera, Commuter Cars, Eliica), we’ve for the most part withheld judgement. Still, if you have any of your own predictions about which companies will succeed or — far more likely — fail, we’d encourage you to make them known in the comments.

A note on our method: While most manufacturers are planning more than one model, we chose the one that seemed either most commercially viable or closest to release, depending on our own (discretionary) formula. We didn’t included well-known consumer models like the Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt, or startups like AC Propulsion that only do battery conversions for consumer vehicles. We also rounded the price to the nearest thousand.

All details are taken from the companies, so we haven’t independently confirmed things like range and top speed details. In case we missed any, mention them below and we’ll add them to the list.

americanelectricvehicle.JPGAmerican Electric Vehicle — Kurrent
Update: Defunct, according to a comment below, although they seem to still be for sale. We’re looking into it.
AEV advises its potential drivers to “Slow down,” which seems like wise advice, given the golf cart-inspired design. Still, it’s ridiculously cheap.
Fuel type: All-electric
Price: $10K
Range / top speed: 40 miles / 25mph
Release date: Available now

commutercars.jpgCommuter Cars — Tango T600
The Tango is even odder than three-wheeled designs, in some ways: It’s less than half the width of a normal car, and two can fit in a single lane. It also accelerates like a bat out of hell. Future versions are planned to be much cheaper, and have longer ranges.
Fuel type: All-electric
Price: $108K
Range / top speed: 80 miles / 150mph
Funding: Less than $1 million in angel backing; open to venture funding.
Release date: Available now

Read more.


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August 3rd, 2009

Bright Green Talent in the SF Chronicle: Tough Job Market for Recent Grads

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This past Sunday, our new marketing intern Dana and I were featured in the Business section of the SF Chronicle in an article called Tough Job Market Requires that Grads Adjust.

The article is copied below, but I’d suggest you also check out the comments. Clearly, the job market is a hot topic – the comments range from fiery to frustrated to constructive. Lots of people suggested that recent graduates who are having trouble finding a job go start their own business. While I do know several friends who’ve been laid off and started in on their own projects, some of the same problems persist: recent grads’ networks aren’t as strong for funding and business support, they have a tougher time convincing investors they’re serious, and they don’t have the savings to back up the ventures on their own.

What this article is really about, then, is bootstrapping — that recent graduates are having to come up with creative ways to stay afloat and to pursue what they’re passionate about. That might mean working for free 3 days a week while supplementing with a restaurant or childcare job; it might mean working nights on getting a business up and running; or it might mean going back to school to get some more targeted experience.

For some of our job advice for recent grads, click here.

Tough job market requires that graduates adjust

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stanford graduate John Dryden didn’t have a job lined up before he got his diploma in June, but in this economy he feels lucky to have been offered a contract post.

“I look at it as a case where the glass is half full,” said Dryden, 22, a business major who had an internship last summer that, in better times, would have led to a job.

“The company has a hiring freeze but they’re still interested in bringing me back in the fall, not as a full-time employee with benefits but as a contractor,” Dryden said, adding, “I feel very fortunate.”

Young people nationwide are being forced to adjust their expectations and try new tactics as recent college graduates face the toughest job hunt in decades.

“The current situation compares to the early 1980s, which was also an extremely difficult job market for college graduates,” said Edwin Koc, research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The association regularly surveys the nation’s largest employers about their plans to hire graduating seniors.

“Typically we have a positive story with an annual increase in the number of hires,” Koc said. “But when we asked employers what they expected to hire from this graduating class relative to last year, it was down 22 percent.”

The association also asked a sample of this year’s 1.6 million college seniors about their employment prospects and discovered a sharp drop from a prior poll.

“In 2007 when we surveyed students, over 50 percent of the class had a job offer before graduation,” Koc said. “This year it was 19.7 percent.”

Desiree Fabunan, 23, is one of those who beat the odds by getting a job with AT&T’s Western Region headquarters in San Ramon before graduating from Stanford in June.

“A lot of people were down in the dumps,” Fabunan said, recalling the mood on campus. “Back in January, people were really panicking because you know that at Stanford so many of the grads that had come before you had jobs by that time.”

Dana Lin, a recent college graduate who lives in Mountain View, said employers in this market are demanding more than a degree.

“Many jobs call for three or four or five years of work experience,” said Lin, 22, who earned her undergraduate degree in business from Cornell University in 2008.

April layoff

Back then, when the college job market was still strong, she got a marketing position with a Silicon Valley software firm. But she was laid off in April. To bolster her brief work experience, Lin is doing a part-time, unpaid internship with the San Francisco startup Bright Green Talent, a recruiting and staffing agency for the sustainable energy industry.

“We did not have much of a problem taking these internships when we were in college,” Lin said. “It allows me to learn new things in new areas.”

At Bright Green Talent, Lin works with full-time employee Carolyn Mansfield, a 2008 Stanford graduate who found that, even then, her anthropology degree didn’t impress employers. She also worked for free to gain experience, first as an unpaid media intern for the Sierra Club and later at Bright Green Talent, which hired her after a two-month trial period.

“It’s about getting your foot in the door and letting employers see your work ethic and how you perform on the job,” Mansfield said.

But while young college graduates face a tough job market now, long-term trends work in their favor.

“Many employers can forecast a large number of retirements coming up in the next three to five years,” said Tom Devlin, career center director at UC Berkeley.

Positions will open

Koc, the employment expert, said this retirement trend means positions will open up for young college graduates once the recession ends even if the recovery is too weak to create job growth.

But at the moment the circumstances are less favorable.

“Opportunities that may have been there in the past have not been as plentiful for our graduating class,” said Dryden, the Stanford alumnus.

E-mail Tom Abate at

This article appeared on page D – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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July 20th, 2009

The Top 30 Green Newsletters



Carolyn ThumbnailPenned by Carolyn

In the “green” space, credibility is crucial, and things are changing rapidly as investment   washes in and out of the sector, companies make big eco-commitments, or they slink away from their environmental goals. A great way to stay up to date is to sign yourself up for a few newsletters in the space you’re interested in moving into. Being well-read is also a networking tool — you can know who’s growing, who’s been bought out, who’s making  headlines. Use these developments as opportunities to reach out to the companies or people involved and start a meaningful dialogue.

Here are our 30 favorite green newsletters – our criteria included quality of news/writing, relevance, up-to-date information, and lack of spammy-ness.

General Green News:
GreenBiz & the other Greener World Media newsletters
Mother Nature Network
Climate Change Business Journal
Green Options
Environmental Leader

Clean Tech/Renewable Energy:
CleanEdge “Clean Watch”
Rocky Mountain Institute
Renewable Energy Weekly
GreenTech Media

Sierra Club RAW
Sierra Club Insider
We Campaign
Green for All

Green Business/CSR:
Seventh Generation
Green America (formerly Co-op America)
CSR Wire
Reuters Carbon

Bright Green Talent
Green Job List
CleanLoop CleanTech
Green Career Central

Feel Good:
Daily Ray of Hope (Sierra Club)

We’re always open to feedback – if you have other suggestions or thoughts, please share them!


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July 13th, 2009

Your Daily Thread – Tracy Hepler

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Tracy HelperWe had a chat with Tracy Hepler this week, an entrepreneur trying to green LA:

Q1 What are you up to at the moment?

Right now I’m constantly working on growing my baby, which is an online community space for green, sustainable and local living in Los Angeles. Our goal is to bring green down to the local level. There are wonderful national and global sites out there right now such as or, but they usually don’t focus on neighborhood issues. We try to focus on things that you can do in your own back yard, from community gardens to local green events—we sift through all green marketing and green washing to bring our readers the crème de la crème of local green issues.

I have also recently co-founded LYFE (Leading Young Future Entrepreneurs) with Hillary Newman (the Ecowarriorr) and Rachel Hurn-Maloney of Vie Eco Fashion Boutique in Los Angeles. LYFE brings together young entrepreneurs who care about the environment and want to network both professional and socially.

I also do freelance writing/blogging for a few other green/cause oriented sites including the Huffington Post Green, and I’m working on a few more side projects including bringing green to the Latino mainstream.

Q2 Why do you do what you do?

After graduating college, I thought I really wanted to work in the entertainment industry as a writer. I soon realized once in the industry that my calling was to use my skills towards work that would help make the world a better place. As cheesy as that might sound, it is true. I feel that climate change and the environment is possibly the most pressing issue of our time and I want to do everything in my power to bring change and inspire everyone to do everything they can to conquer this problem.

Q3 What keeps you awake at night?

Haha, this is funny because I’m currently on vacation and I can’t be away Your Daily Thread for more than a few hours—that is my baby, if you will, and I am so inspired to see it succeed all the way through.

Q4 You mentioned that you’re doing a summer special with YDT – what tips do you have?

Well I missed the 4th, but our tips are applicable for the rest of summer. If I could suggest one big thing it would be to avoid using disposables. For one hour of picnicking or bbqing your plastic plates and forks will sit in the landfill for hundreds of years. I don’t care how tasty you burgers are—it’s not worth it. Bring your own plates from home or if you need to use a form of disposable, use compostable ones from companies like Earth Shell. They’re made in the USA from old potatoes and other scrapes and can be thrown into the compost bin. If you don’t compost and must throw them away, they won’t take nearly as long to biodegrade. You can view the rest of our green summer bbq tips here.

Q5 If you were a g(r)enie, what would you wish for?

I get three wishes I assume!

1) I’d wish for green to be a major priority across, political, social and all other spectrums. I’m happy with the amount of progress we’ve made in the last few years, but I think we’ve got a lot more to do and a stronger sense of urgency is needed.

2) That every household and business in America used a recycling and composting bin so that we would throw less into our landfills.

3) That we’d return to eating healthy real food. I have been a big fan of Michael Pollan for a while and recently saw Food INC—it’s shocking how much of what we eat really isn’t food. I’d wish for a return to more seasonal organic food that everyone could afford.


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July 6th, 2009

Update: Waxman-Markey, Stimulus Dollars, and Green Jobs Training

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Carolyn ThumbnailPenned by Carolyn

Watching this one minute video review of the energy bill in the House, one word resonates again and again: jobs. The potential for job creation in moving towards a clean energy future has become a rallying cry for proponents of the Waxman-Markey Bill — because who can argue with job creation when unemployment has officially hit 9.5% nationally?

In the past couple weeks, the Labor Department announced $500 million in grants for green jobs training programs. States and cities have also started to distribute stimulus dollars for training programs. If you’re interested in who’s getting funding and how, sign up for updates from Green for All — they’ve been giving a number of conference calls to keep folks in the loop and share information nationally about training programs. Most of the money that’s being doled out focuses on helping blue-collar workers transition into the green economy — providing “pathways out of poverty” as the nation undergoes energy retrofits, solar system installation, and more.

But some concerns remain. Yesterday, the New York Times brought into question the effectiveness of retraining programs in giving trainees a leg up in the job search. As the Times wrote, “a little-noticed study the Labor Department released several months ago found that the benefits of the biggest federal job training program were ‘small or nonexistent’ for laid-off workers. It showed little difference in earnings and the chances of being rehired between laid-off people who had been retrained and those who had not.”

Hopefully, the green jobs training programs will avoid the pitfalls that have led to the concerns raised by the NYT article, and will lend a hand to folks from all backgrounds and work histories — we hear from a lot of people who are looking to transfer technical skill sets and haven’t yet found a clear pathway in helping them do so. We have to believe that, with all the energy and enthusiasm focused on the green sector right now, there couldn’t be a better moment for these programs to succeed in training the next generation of environmental leaders.

To that end, we’ll continue to provide advice and resources to our jobseekers (keep an eye out for Bright Green Seminars starting in the next couple months), and we’ll support our partner Solar Richmond as they seek stimulus funding to support their amazing solar installation training program.

Stay tuned… more exciting developments are surely on the way.


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June 11th, 2009

Strange Bedfellows?: Chevron vs. Sierra Club

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Dave O'Reilly and Carl PopePenned by Carolyn

Last night, Christina and I attended a debate between Carl Pope (Executive Director of the Sierra Club) and Dave O’Reilly (CEO of Chevron). Given scheduling and, I imagine, some dragging of feet from both parties, it took the Commonwealth Club and the Wall Street Journal a full year to get this event organized.

On the bus home, a couple thoughts on the event stayed with me.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I worked with the media team in Sierra Club National Headquarters for a couple semesters while I was in school. One of the first things I learned about pitching a story was, of course, that it has to have a hook. One of the most compelling of these hooks is a “strange bedfellows” story, where two groups that wouldn’t traditionally be lumped together that share a common cause or campaign (such as Sierra Club’s “Blue Green Alliance” with the United Steel Workers or their work with hunters and anglers to preserve wildlife habitat).

Last night’s event had some shade of that type of hook – which is probably why it seemed like half of San Francisco was in attendance. This is not to say in any means that Sierra Club and Chevron are in cahoots – in fact, Sierra Club has long made the oil giant a target of campaigns around environmental justice and destruction. However, at one point in the conversation, Dave O’Reilly (consciously or not) conceded that he believed the coal lobby in Washington was too strong for natural gas to have a real chance of being implemented on a large scale. Carl Pope jumped on the opportunity to invite O’Reilly to join him in DC to take a stand against the coal lobby – and the two men shook on it. I’d guess Sierra Club will try to hold O’Reilly to this promise — which he may not be able to wiggle out of, given that the event was swarming with local and national media and will be broadcast on NPR.

Beyond this potential lobbying duo becoming “strange bedfellows,” I think it symbolizes a larger movement towards cooperation between the large non-profits and environmental lobbies and the companies they’ve long been harshly criticizing. At Sierra Club, this move follows last year’s launch of the “GreenWorks” line with Clorox — another case of unprecedented cooperation and dialogue between big industry and the Club.

For us at Bright Green Talent, this is hugely energizing. We too believe that there’s no longer any way to tackle the world’s environmental problems without everyone’s cooperation – this is, for example, why we’ve chosen to work with Wal-Mart to help them grow their sustainability team. Many of the giant green non-profits – Conservation International, EDF, NRDC – are pursuing similar private-public partnerships.

But don’t worry – we’re not letting Chevron off the hook just for shaking hands with the opposition. Pope also called for Chevron and the other large oil companies to set aside 10% of their profits for 10 years to create a fund that would clean up all the communities and ecosystems that have been devastated by oil development over the past century. And we side with Pope and the Sierra Club as they call for ambitious and significant decreases in carbon emissions (80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050), rather than allowing industry to hide behind claims that those goals “just aren’t realistic.” We still need people and organizations to stand up for communities who don’t have a voice — such as the protestors who stood up last night to bring awareness to Chevron’s hand in environmental contamination in Ecuador.

Most significantly, where there used to be a thick wall over which each party hurled insults and accusations, there is now a live and potentially constructive, dialogue. Strange bedfellows or not, it’s time to act together and move towards a prosperous low-carbon future.

Want to see it for yourself?

Watch for the event to be rebroadcast on NPR; here’s a video from San Francisco local news. Sierra Club has posted some thoughts and will add video highlights.

Reuters also picked up the story, with a great exchange:

Pope criticised U.S. energy regulation for not forcing utilities to buy more low-carbon electricity. “Well, if you can get the government to move faster, then good luck,” O’Reilly said.
Pope replied, to applause: “It would help if you would get out of the way.”

Photo from Sierra Club


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June 2nd, 2009

Smart Grid 101: Definitions and Opportunities

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Carolyn ThumbnailPenned by Carolyn

Smart Grid is one of those terms being thrown around the media and the green business sector – and for good reason, as it’s one of the most promising areas for growth even in this economy. In terms of being able to talk the talk in the green sphere, this is a concept you should be able to discuss with some level of intelligence and awareness.

Though there’s no singular definition attached to smart grid, it’s basically the concept of combining a power delivery system with a digital technology/metering system that allows utilities and consumers to adjust their electricity use with an end goal of increasing the efficiency of power usage nationally and globally.

Get familiar with some of the issues around implementing smart grid technologies, and why there’s so much buzz and hope for this growing green sector. Here are some resources to kick off your investigation:
  • The Department of Energy published a 48-page e-book called “Smart Grid: An Introduction,” which explores in layman’s terms the nature, challenges, opportunities and necessity of Smart Grid implementation in the U.S. and beyond. There’s a great glossary of terms in the back.
  • The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition has information on the companies in the sector. Its member list (copied below) will give you a sense of some of the big players in the field.
  • This map of 101 Cleantech Startups shows several Smart Grid companies.
  • Smart Grid News gives information on companies in the sector, deals and transactions and trends in the industry.
  • Wikipedia has some basic background and interesting links.

And now, dive in to these companies and see where you might be interested in fitting in. Our usual thoughts on networking apply – run a search through LinkedIn to see who you know there; join some groups that the company’s employees are a member of to get exposed to the industry dialogue; read through the company bios; and check out job openings.

Conservation Services Group
Corporate Systems Engineering
Direct Energy
Eka Systems
Energy Capital Partners
Energy Curtailment Specialists
Enspiria Solutions
General Electric
Ice Energy
KMC Controls
Landis + Gyr
Lutron Electronics
PCN Technology
Silver Spring Networks
Trilliant Networks


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