by Alison Kibe
Energy costs make up a disproportionate amount of a low income household spending so energy prices, recently at 3.2% increase per year, create a greater burden on lower incomes (Hodge, 2014). As a result, some households cannot afford to heat or cool their homes without assistance. Under some circumstances, households may even forego energy use in months they need it most. This is not a small issue, with the official poverty rate in 2013 at 14.5%— or about 45.3 million people (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014). Gridmates, a startup founded in 2014, thought of a new platform to reach those in need—through the electricity grid.
According to the Gridmates website (Gridmates.com), Gridmates uses a software as a service platform operated through utilities to form a network between utilities customers, corporations, nonprofits, and those in need. Customers and corporations can pay for and “send” energy through the Gridmates website. Although an aim of the service is to help those in need, users could send energy to family members, friends, and nonprofit organizations. Gridmates also allows any customers who generate electricity at home to choose if and how they want to share surplus electricity with others.
Gridmates is currently using their platform to crowd source energy funding for the Community First! Village. The project, run by the City of Austin and Mobile Loaves and Fishes, is based in Southeast Austin and will provide affordable and sustainable housing to 240 disabled and chronically homeless individuals. Community First! Village’s first year total electricity costs are estimated at $213,000, or $2.50 per person per day (Tull, 2015). As of March 2015, Gridmates had raised $85,000 (Gridmates.com).
This type of service is what the National Institute of Standards and Technology expects to see in the future of energy grids, or what is currently being called Grid 3.0 (Greer, 2015; NIST, 2014). Grid 3.0 is concerned with leveraging current Grid 2.0 technology (think smart meters) to change how customers and utilities interact with energy grids. With over 43 million U.S. households having smart meters as of 2012, other services using platforms that rely on data available through smart grids could become more widely available (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2014).
Greer, Chris. “Legacy Grid, Smart Grid.” Energy Biz Magazine, Winter 2015 Issue. http://www.energybiz.com/magazine/article/392097/legacy-grid-smart-grid
Hodge, T., 2014. Residential electricity prices are rising. U.S. Energy Information Administration. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=17791
Tull, S., 2015. Fact Sheet: Energy Sharing Campaign: Benefiting Community First! Village And Creating The World’s First Community Powered By Crowdsourced Energy. Gridmates.
National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2014. NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 3.0. http://dx.doi.org/10.6028/NIST.SP.1108r3
US Census Bureau, 2014. Poverty: 2013 Highlights. http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/
US Energy Information Administration, 2014. How many smart meters are installed in the U.S. and who has them? http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=108&t=3
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