by Mike Smith, Energy Central and Huffington Post blog columnist
Washington, DC -- OK, when was the last time you used the word “bread” to refer to bucks? The retro phrase is recognizable and when it comes to energy savings, there is certainly a lot of bread to make sure you get your slice!
Tony Maull served as US Regional Initiative Leader for Ernst & Young’s GHG and Clean Tech practice when he had an idea. Consumers are unaware, uneducated or are not sure how to access governmental and private sector (including manufacturer) energy rebates. Prior to his consulting gig, Tony was VP of Marketing with Experian, credit scoring and analytics software, where he worked with big companies to understand consumer buying behavior. Before that, Tony was an investment banker with CIBC advising clients on technology products.
These three experiences and a love of environment enabled the entrepreneur to create a “Match.com” site for distributors to reach new customers and consumers to find better deals.
On his site, www.savebigbread.com, he shares stories like: “SoCal Edison increasing heat pump and energy rebates;” “Gulf Power Solar Increase (and Fall deadline) for Energy Rebates;” and “Potomac Edison announcing the launch of its energy efficiencies rebates.”
But it’s not just the utility programs. Tony and his team are providing details on manufacturer incentives for major appliances and in particular for HVAC systems. So how does Save Big Bread make money? By charging distributors $45 per lead and a successful lead generation engine. It’s a win-win proposition.
“There is $12 billion worth of energy efficiency rebate money out there,” says Tony. He also notes that there are 3,000 energy appliance and systems distributors in high density or high consumption markets in America with some 80,000 HVAC installers working with them.
“I had to ask: ‘How do we make these programs more effective and able to meet our ends?’” said Tony:
--Needs to be approachable, understood by the homeowner
--Who is the trusted entity that can deliver message? Utilities have Big Brother aspect—may not be trusted
--Needs to become trustworthy source that can deliver the message
So Save Big Bread is going after the top 35 markets with high incidence of home improvement or rehab work, new installations, and he’s starting in the Southwest mecca of Houston, Texas and Southeast post of Atlanta, Georgia. Yep, we’d agree those markets are “hot.” Quick market research shows Houston to have the right demographic, too, with an average age of 32, high degree of home rehabbers, and need to move to more energy efficience heating, cooling and air conditioning unit. So www.texasenergyrebates.comwill launch this week with Georgia to soon follow this beachhead.
“We are hiring curators for these statewide states who are not particularly energy experts but are smart consumers looking for deals,” said Tony. “That might mean a coupon clipping mom or smart family shoppers on social media sharing tips and cost-saving ideas.” He said people have more important things on which to allocate money.
The US Government Energy Star program www.energystar.gov starts with reducing energy bills on appliances. Solar installation is another subsidized option – with grants recently extended. A recent web search found over 14.6 million search results for the query: “how much does the government offer in energy rebates in dollars?”
Tony believes his new e-commerce site can access about $2 billion of available resources to help consumers. But that is not all, the Save Big Bread site has an altruistic bent in supporting veteran’s programs. With 60,000 service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, 40,000 alone with draw downs now in Afghanistan, Tony figures he can help with job creation. Turning soldiers into tradesmen, distributors and installers, is one job avenue.
Working with the “Gallant Few” to help combat veterans who go into trade work also generate leads and will create business (www.gallantfew.org), he knows. And that could create some pretty big bread, man, for everyone in the supply chain.