Even with all the talk about renewable energy and energy efficiency in Washington, the media and Silicon Valley these days, adoption of such technologies in the U.S. is still very low — solar power made up just 1 percent of the renewable energy consumed in 2007. But two entrepreneurs, Diane Loviglio and Kurt Brown, along with the two dozen members of their team, have created a web site called Wattbot that acts as a sort of middle man for interested consumers and energy providers, which they hope will help speed the adoption of clean power and energy-efficiency tools.
Wattbot is officially launching in beta at the Solar Power International convention in San Diego this week. Here’s how it works: Solar installers, home retrofitters, and other energy providers sign up to be listed on the site and can receive high-quality leads for consumers in their area who are interested in their service. Consumers enter information about the energy products they are interested in and can search through recommendations and listings of the most appropriate providers, pricing options and companies in their area (the consumer section won’t be able available until January). The company says providers cannot directly influence the automated matching service.
Wattbot can cut providers’ sales cycle in half and help consumers navigate the confusing, inefficient energy information out there on the web, Loviglio told us in a phone interview. “We found that solar installers were spending hours educating consumers and qualifying leads,” Loviglio says. They also noted that there wasn’t a good, centralized place for consumers to find intelligent energy information. “We thought there’s got to be a more efficient way,” she says.
Providers are able to enter their company information on the site now, but leads won’t be available until February. Pricing ranges from $20 to $200 per lead, depending on how qualified the lead is and what products/services the consumers have signed up to learn about. For the launch, providers can sign up for free between now and Dec. 31, 2008. Wattbot will deposit a $500 credit in their account, so they can try out leads at no cost. Providers can also register with a Solar Power 2008 code (GFT286) to get an additional $250 credit. In March, Wattbot will also start offering market intelligence (geographic and demographic clean power data) to providers for an annual subscription.
The site is free for consumers, and starting in January it will offer detailed information about services, providers, pricing and options in their area (between now and January consumers can sign up but won’t be able to sift though listings.) At that time users will be able to enter their address as well as info about their site, structure, occupancy, energy, finances and goals to discover the best options. “When they are confident in the financial analysis of each recommendation, and feel comfortable with why Wattbot recommended particular products, services, and financing plans, they can click to be connected with the best-matching providers,” Loviglio wrote in an email to us.
Wattbot also has some other nifty features, like a clean energy density map, a clean energy pin map, and community features, which will be more valuable when the site starts bringing in users. Wattbot was founded in 2007 and financed by undisclosed angel investors.