DEMO Tries Out Green in Palm Desert, Sigh

It seems like every conference these days is adding green elements, from the gadget-laden Consumer Electronics Show to the car-crazed Detroit Auto Show. So why shouldn’t DEMO, the ultimate startup launchpad conference taking place this week in Palm Desert, Calif., test what it means for them to be greener, too?

Well, they can try, anyway. With a whopping two companies included in the “It’s Easy Being Green” section, we wish they had given it a more serious effort. DEMO organizer Chris Shipley really hit the nail on the head when she described the conference’s green agenda:

DEMO has never been about following trends; it’s about identifying them. But one trend we’ve watched more than lead is Clean Tech or Green Tech or whatever other name you use to identify environmentally-responsible technology.

Wow, with such a half-hearted approach as that one, why even go there? Though the plan is also part of a bigger commitment to the green space, and in the brochure at the event, the conference company writes that it has “an eye toward a future DEMOgreen event.” We look forward to learning more about that.

And while the two companies “launching” at DEMO are interesting, they have been around for awhile. One of them is Green Plug, which we covered in detail when they were at CES (given the strict media rules at DEMO, Shipley must have been peeved at Green Plug’s pre-DEMO press) and the other is Celsias, an online site (and blog) that helps its users collaborate on global warming projects.

Green Plug makes a smart adapter that saves power by sending precisely the required amount of power to each connected device, eliminating the problem of “phantom power,” or power used when an adapter is plugged in but not charging a device. Its “Greentalk” protocol is like a smart grid for the spaghetti mess of wires under your desk. The company is trying to convince consumer electronic manufacturers to put Green Plug’s chips into their devices and work its way into the market for power adapters and power supplies, which is estimated to grow to $4 billion dollars by 2010.

Green Plug, which was founded in 2006 by Frank Paniagua and has eight employees, told us a few weeks ago that they were finishing their first round of funding, and at DEMO the company announced a Series A investment from Peninsula Equity Partners of Menlo Park, Calif.

The other green DEMO contender is Celsias, which has a blog we read regularly, but has now launched its Celsias Projects, a site where users can create, join or sponsor global warming projects. Shipley referred to the company as “action networking” in the release, and the service sounds similar to what, and Project Agape are doing.

I’ve covered the DEMO show over the past several years, and the GigaOM Network has a crew on the floor checking out the newbie startups. While DEMO sometimes turns out some real winners, we’re thinking its shade of green is already fading.