Less is More

Who wants to think about a kilowatt? 100 years of data tells us not many people; and that thick stack of unopened monthly energy bills on your counter says you neither. Life comes fast, people are busy; what we all care most about is the result. We want our showers hot, our homes cooled, and a comfortable living experience that’s reliable and predictable.

That’s our clean energy subscription. It’s a product we’ve designed that takes this into account, moving our customers away from the per unit kWh model, giving one flat monthly price for clean energy. It’s a clean energy innovation.

But, we don’t just want people using clean energy—we want them to use less energy overall. After all, a kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Actually, it’s even better. A kilowatt saved is more valuable than a kilowatt generated, it’s a negawatt created.

Negawatt, huh? Yes, it’s a silent revolution, and one of the best ideas about energy use and demand for both our homes and the environment.

It’s a unit of electricity demand that’s taken off the grid through reduced consumption; power saved through conservation or efficiency measures. If a kilowatt is energy that you’ve used, its environmentally responsible opposite is the negawatt—the energy that you didn’t use. The cleanest of all.

When you think about the grid, imagine there’s a certain amount of electricity needed at any given time to power our homes, devices, and everything else that makes our cities, communities and lives go. Now, it’s mid-afternoon on a hot summer’s day and demand is about to spike as everyone turns on their air conditioners and other cooling devices. Network managers see this coming and manage operations to accommodate the increase.

There are two options here, either provide more supply or cut demand. Increasing supply means turning on peaker plants that burn the dirtiest fuel when it’s at its costliest to generate more energy. We don’t want this. Cutting demand is just that, finding ways to get people to use less energy at that moment, shifting consumption to negawatts. We want this, and it sits at the core of our business.

We’ve perfectly aligned our incentives so that the magic of our business is in negawatts created, not kilowatts consumed. When our customers use less energy, we reward them by giving them cash back. When our customers use less energy, we buy less supply. And when less energy is used, at all steps, the environment profits. This is why the negawatt is worth so much more to us.

But, the day’s still hot and people want their homes cooled. So, how?

We call it Smart Energy.

It’s a layered approach that uses smart home technology to use clean energy more efficiently, in other words managing smart home products to create more negawatts.

For instance, your home can still be cooled, but why not do it earlier in the day? At peak demand, it can be autonomously turned down via smart thermostat. Or why not replace your 100 watt light bulb with a 15 watt smart bulb? It’s 85 less watts and can be dimmed in a way that’s imperceptible to the eye. Or best, pair the thermostat and smart bulbs with a hub and smart plugs, and control them via a smart energy app for a fully automated experience. These are negawatts, and they can be provided to the grid on demand. This is smart energy; the future we’re envisioning.

We’ve come a long way. Before, people had to radically change their behavior, i.e. ditch the Bronco for a Prius, move closer to work to walk or bike, or use a fan instead of an A/C. Or even more extreme, use the fireplace instead of the furnace. These are all excellent actions, some more than others. But they’re usually the domain of die-hards; not the average person. The future state we’re creating is to use artificial intelligence and advanced metrics so customers can live their lives, not lift a finger, but still make a significant impact through creating negawatts.

Here, at Labs we’re working to radically change it so the technology wraps around our behavior and not the other way around. We’re following the path of the data, and 100 years of it tells us people don’t care about energy, they care most about the result. Fortunately, the results our technology is looking to provide — a comfortable living experience that’s reliable and predictable — from smart energy is so uniquely aligned from top to bottom that it makes perfect sense.

Never has the absence of energy so captured the fullness of the possibilities ahead. Negawatt, huh? Negawatt, yes. It’s a negawatt revolution.

Interested in learning more about ways to make your home smarter? Check us out.