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There’s only one thing worse than listening to the Beach Boys.  Give up?  Listening to the Beach Boys doing Christmas songs.  Scarface, which I just watched recently, better puts me in the holiday spirit than listing to a Beach Boys ditty.

“Greedy little cockroaches.  Goodbye.  You wanna play games?  Ok.  I play with you.  You wanna play rough?  Ok.  Say hello to my LITTLE FRIEND!” – Tony Montana.  [that’s right – several sentences and 20-30 words without the F-bomb]

Deck the halls with boughs of holly falalalalala la la la la.  Ratatatatatat.

If you hate year in review reports just quit right here because that’s what this is.  Our industry is growing in leaps and bounds and none of us realizes very much how lousy the rest of the economy is doing, with few exceptions.  Food processors seem to be doing quite well.  Agriculture is riding a huge wave, and if I were a producer, I’d be burying my loot in the back yard or paying down debt big time.  Energy producers, particularly natural gas and unconventional oil producers are booming.  I’ll rant on this topic separately in one of the coming weeks.

While our industry is booming, competition, at least measured by the number of bidders for requests for proposals, is brutal.  We are finding 8-10 proposals for many of the RFPs we respond to and you only need a third grade education to do the odds on this.  Fortunately, we have taken more than our share relative to dumb odds.

The EE business right now is like the Wild West gold rush or something.  It’s a race to grab all the market share you can as EE spreads to every state in the union, except North Dakota and West Virginia – net energy exporters.  Over the long term however, the best performers will have the most toys with a few exceptions.

As I’ve ranted on this blog numerous times before, innovation is pretty lame in this gold rush phase of the industry’s cycle.  Track records won’t be enough down the road.  While I’ve also lambasted lawmakers and others for seemingly believing there will be iPhone-like breakthroughs in renewable energy supplies and energy efficiency, I do believe the future will belong to innovators and the innovation will be more subdued as in the automotive industry.  It won’t be like the evolution of Dan Akroyd’s 12 pound cell phone in 1984 (or so) to the tiny forerunners of smart phones.

Highlights of 2011 for Michaels include substantial projects in new states including Maine, Connecticut, Arkansas, and Wyoming and some smaller projects in New York and Indiana.  New regulatory / utility clients include Efficiency Maine, Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board, Arkansas Public Service Commission, Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power, MidAmerican Energy, Minnesota Division of Energy Resources, and Central Iowa Power Cooperative.  New consultant clients include Johnson Consulting Group and Spyrel.

What to look for in the year ahead?  I make predictions all the time but I won’t on this one, but let me just say I’m a big believer in preparation meeting opportunity making for “good luck”.  It will be interesting to see how the next decade or so turns out.  In these Wild West gold rush days, what I call commodity providers delivering energy efficiency like hamburgers and cereal are growing at staggering rates.  The easy stuff [lighting] is falling fast.  One business strategy, and this doesn’t interest me in the least, is to aggressively price program delivery and sell the hell out of lighting – kind of like the raccoons used to do in the sweet corn patch – knock down the stalks just as the ears are coming to maturity, take a few chomps and leave the rest behind.  Cherry picking.

At some point hamburgers and cereal will transition to expertise-driven energy efficiency with enormous potential for savings.  Clearly, states that have had programs for decades are and have been in this transition for a while.


This winter has been pathetic in Wisconsin.  For the past three or four years, by Christmas, we have had a couple feet of snow as of the holiday breaks.  This year, we’ve had three inches, one at a time, melting the next day each time.  The average low is about 10F and I don’t think it’s been that cold once yet.  The poor ski-slope operators can’t even make snow.  There is nothing on the horizon for snow through the middle of January.  Good grief – I could go to OK or TX for snowshoeing.  Prediction: we will get one big dump on March 8th, a Thursday.  Better take Friday off because it will be 45F and melting fast on Saturday.

In the Surprise! column, Johnson Controls nails first giant project of the $4 billion EE funding announced by the white house a few weeks back.  You don’t suppose… no.  No coincidence there.  Looks completely legit.  And my dogs refused to eat any Christmas turkey.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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