Crowdsourcing To Save Energy and Give To Needy

April 3, 2015
You can now save energy for more reasons than cutting your utility costs and protecting the environment. You can help others pay their utility bills with the energy you save. That’s the idea behind a program from CLEAResult and Gridmates, companies involved in the Community First! project.

Saving energy is no longer just about cutting your utility costs and protecting the environment. There’s another great reason to invest in energy efficiency: You can save energy and help others pay their bills.

Under a fledgling program from CLEAResult and Gridmates, people can save energy in their own households and then donate the saved energy to those who can’t afford to pay their utility bills. They do this through a platform from Gridmates.

Here are details from the two companies, which are now testing the idea at the Community First! village, a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. The goal is to send 1 million kWh to the community through energy donations that would be worth $85,000. The project is about halfway to its goal.

What are the implications of crowdsourcing energy for energy efficiency programs?

“Crowdsourcing energy is an interesting concept with great implications for future energy efficiency programs. For example, utilities can better incentivize and motivate customers to adopt energy efficiency programs by offering them the option to donate energy saved to those in need within the community through a platform like Gridmates. Therefore, simple energy efficiency steps – such as switching out light bulbs to LED lighting and reducing household energy consumption with the use of smart thermostats – could equate to more energy put back on the grid for those who need it most.”

Michele Negley, vice president south region for CLEAResult

How does the peer-to-peer energy sharing technology work and how  are energy donations made to energy consumers, such as Austin’s chronically homeless in this case?

With the Gridmates platform users are able to buy or donate any amount of energy they want using a credit/debit card or PayPal and provide free electricity to the residents of the Community First! Village. It is tax deductible. The process is very simple. Visit http://www.mlf.org/gridmates or http://www.gridmates.com,  read the information, click “send energy,” select a dollar or energy amount, and see the impact of the energy on people’s lives. The user can then confirm and use a credit or debit card or Paypal to execute the process in a secure way. Users will immediately receive an energy saving tip on how they can save this amount of energy at their home! An email with detailed information for tax purposes will also be sent.

In the future, once Gridmates establishes collaboration with utilities or energy retailers, the energy sharing process will be integrated into their utility accounts. Gridmates will help utilities and energy retailers provide the  transfer of energy between utility customers. This is called transactive energy.

– George Koutitas, CEO & co-founder, Gridmates

Do you know of other programs that have used an energy sharing concept before?

“Utilities and energy retailers may already implement community assistance programs for low-income households but the model and value proposition of Gridmates is different. Gridmates brings peer-to-peer energy sharing one click away from utility customers. Gridmates offers peer-to-peer energy sharing but also personalized energy saving tips to all Gridmate users. The energy donor and the recipient of energy can both see how they can save the amount of shared energy. With the Gridmates platform, users are able to interact and see in real time their impact. It is more engaging.”

George Koutitas, CEO & co-founder, Gridmates

Besides the Community First! Village, what are other examples of how Gridmates’s tool can be used for saving and donating energy?

“After our pilot launch with Community First! Village, Gridmates will open the platform to other non-profit organizations but will also integrate the services with utilities and energy retailers. Users will be able to share energy with specific individuals or non-profits or with an anonymous pool of people categorized according to location, needs, etc.”

 George Koutitas, CEO & co-founder, Gridmates

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

Facebook: Energy Efficiency Markets

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