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By Victor J. Sequeira on Jun 2, 2009 with no responses

Carbon Credits as a Boost to Home Equity?

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Maybe you are like a lot of people who consider the problem of controlling carbon emissions an issue for governments or big-industry to solve. Likewise, you are probably like most Americans in trying to find ways to add-back the equity lost over the recent housing crisis. We’ve found a start-up company, EarthAid.net, that believes it has developed a way to allow consumers to help reduce CO2 emissions, and add much needed equity to their homes, while getting a little cash-back in the process.

The idea may sound complicated but it is actually fairly straightforward. Users register online at EarthAid.net and allow the company access to the users online account management system via their local utility. Most utilities have adopted these systems as a means to reduce costs and enhance communications with their customers. Earthaid.net now has the user’s baseline energy use. This is one of the unique features of Earthaid.net as this baseline is unique to each user and is based on the actual historical data provided by the utility.

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Next the user is given energy saving ideas which in most cases is specific to their geography. Each “tip” is accompanied by a link to the governing agency which manages that particular program. These tips will sound familiar; solar panels, tankless waterheaters, insulation ideas. It’s having both the idea and the redemption process in one spot that is especially helpful. The user is one or 2 clicks away from determining whether a given tip will work for them.

The intervening stages are as varied as each household but after the homeowner successfully invests in their chosen energy saving projects, their overall energy use will decrease. EarthAid.net tracks this and quantifies it as CO2 reduction on the user’s homepage. Here is the truly distinguishing feature that EarthAid.net has employed. Each year, EarthAid.net will aggregate the overall reduction in carbon emissions across its userbase and sell them in the Carbon Credits market. Proceeds from the sale are then issued in the form of a check back to the userbase. This ”carbon credit profit sharing” in no way impacts the existing incentives such as tax offsets or utility credits the consumer receives by investing in these energy saving projects.

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EarthAid.net President Benjamin “Ben” Bixby gave us a demo of the site during a recent interview. “It is a web-based solution so the user is not required to buy any software or hardware,” explains Bixby. “There is also a social networking aspect where approved ‘friends’ can share and compare information. And because the usage data is from the utility, there is less opportunity for green exaggeration.”

Bixby notes that response has been strong since it’s soft launch in April and from all across the country. “The users range from green enthusiasts to the average homemaker trying to save money wherever possible,”  he said.

EarthAid.net’s efforts have not gone unnoticed in the environmental community. They are up for an award from the Sustainable Brands Conference, an annual event which showcases brands who have made sustainability a key feature in their ongoing business plans.

When asked why EarthAid.net is currently only targeting residential customers, Bixby says “Residential end-use of electricity, natural gas, oil, and propane consumption accounts for a large portion of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, but also offers enormous opportunity for financing distributed, low-hanging-fruit efficiency and renewable energy improvements all around the country. Putting carbon markets to work for American households will make possible emissions and pollution reduction on a colossal scale.”

Bixby does acknowledge that EarthAid.net is likely to add an offering for small business in the near future. In case you are interested, the DOE reports that Residential energy use contributes about 20% of the overall CO2 emissions in the U.S.

As a cherry on top of this great idea, EarthAid.net will store your usage information indefinitely for electrical, water and natural gas accounts. So in the event you want to show potential buyers how the energy investments have worked, it’s only a mouse-click away. “Not only do you have a home with energy efficient features, you’ve got independent third-party data to show how those features will save the prospective buyer money.”

So if you are looking for a way to do your part in reducing CO2 and wouldn’t mind saving a little green in the process, EarthAid.net may be the solution consumers have been waiting for.