INNOVATION OF THE YEAR AWARDS FINALIST: Ecobulb smart technology for energy hardship, efficiency

4 May 2022

Ecobulb says its innovative model of partnerships, processes and platform could save Kiwi homes a billion dollars on their power bills annually while also reducing carbon emissions. 

A two-year project distributing Ecobulbs across six regions was a success. Between 73 per cent and 87 per cent of homes in those regions participated. By 2020, Ecobulb had distributed 260,095 energy-efficient light bulbs.

That provided a launch pad for the company to develop its revolutionary home energy assessment software platform. 

This platform uses in-home and on-line assessment tools to examine current electricity use in the home and then provides advice on specific changes and how many dollars each change would deliver.

The backend is complex and sophisticated, based on real data and scientific evidence.

Ecobulb says the innovation is in understanding that data, building the engine room around it, and then translating it into everyday language and formats that people are comfortable with and give them the confidence to take action.

Funding

In April 2021, Ecobulb secured funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s energy education in communities programme to tackle energy hardship in the King Country.

In just five months, the company developed an advanced tablet-based home energy assessment software platform; recruited and trained 14 local energy assessors through partnerships with the two largest Māori health service providers in the King Country; and delivered home energy assessments in-home, at energy efficiency expos and remotely via social media to a quarter of the households in Tūrangi, Taumarunui and Ohakune. 

This was the pilot and road test for Ecobulb’s assessment tools. 

The company continued to refine its tools, often making changes overnight because of the co-design approach taken with its funding partners, community partners, iwi and on-the-ground assessors.

These insights and ideas made the tool even easier to use. A partnership with Consumer New Zealand’s Powerswitch is evidence of that.

In less than a year in the King Country, Ecobulb has completed 2289 home energy assessments that are saving those households $1.34 million a year on their power bills. That’s one-fifth of the homes in the King Country, delivered despite various Covid lockdowns and restrictions.

Next step

The testing has given New Zealand a proven approach and highly sophisticated but simple and relatable assessment tools, as well as a supporting software platform that could save the average household $600 per year.

Ecobulb’s plan now is to roll this out across the country and significantly reduce energy hardship – saving New Zealanders $1 billion per year on their power bills. 

A nationwide rollout could potentially deliver $221 million in revenue for the company – actual revenue so far is $591,300.

“The energy know-how Kiwi homes get out of our assessment tools might seem like simple stuff – lighting, water heating, home heating, use of second fridges and the like,” says Ecobulb founder Chris Mardon says.

“But combined, it’s out of this world in what it can do for people, their pockets and the planet.”

Ecobulb is 61 per cent of the way to achieving its goal to save enough electricity to power New Zealand for one year. 

The Innovation in Energy Award category is sponsored by Ara Ake

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