A version of this story originally appeared on NoCamels – Israeli Environment News
By Elana Widmann
Utility bills are never fun to look at, but the electricity bill is probably the one that causes most people to do a double take. One of the reasons for the high price of electricity is that electricity companies spend enormous amounts of money generating power during peak hours.
That is why many electric companies have taken the counter-intuitive measure to pay their customers for consuming less electricity during peak hours. It turns out, it costs electricity companies less to pay their customers for electricity they don’t consume during peak hours, than it is to supply them with that power. In the United States, some companies even offer customers $35 on every $1 saved during peak hours.
Israeli company, Greenlet, was created to facilitate this “deal” by giving both electricity manufacturers and consumers an efficient tool to monitor their electricity usage. Customers receive “greenlets,” small units that connect to plugs and sockets, and a “gateway” box that sends information about the appliances to a control center.
The system created by Greenlet allow electricity utilities and aggregators – companies who don’t generate electricity but supply it – to control power consumption during peak hours and days, and allows consumers to receive a monetary refund for reducing power consumption. This monetary refund is given by electricity companies in the U.S., and by the government in Israel.
Avner Cohen, one of the three founders behind Greenlet Technologies, tells NoCamels: “Peak [hours or days] are times where electric companies cannot supply enough energy as demanded, or they can supply enough energy, but the cost is [exponentially greater] than the cost of generation during normal hours. Electric companies are looking for ways to regulate consumption instead of increasing generation.”
Greenlet is able to reduce cost and consumption for end consumers of electricity during peak times through the synchronized management of customers’ utilities at centrally managed and monitored Greenlet control centers. In some cases, the control centers are located within electric companies who have purchased Greenlet’s system. Other times, Greenlet serves as the control center for companies. “We have our own control centers, or work our system into others,” Cohen explains.
The customer gets full control over power management
Customers are connected with their electricity providers’ control center though the “greenlets.” “There is an ease in our deployment – simplicity is key. [Customers] don’t need to do anything but connect the greenlets to appliances, and connect the gateway to a cable,” says Cohen.
Set up time for customers takes between five and eight minutes, and the cost for consumers can be anywhere from $0-150, depending on whether customer’s electricity providers choose to cover the cost of installing Greenlet’s system or not. Once connected, consumers can also monitor and control their home’s appliances through a personal Greenlet web portal. On the web portal, customers can easily schedule when to use which appliance.
To allow customers to reduce energy consumption over time, Greenlet sends customers feedback emails monthly or bi-monthly. The email details the usage of electricity in each appliance connected. In addition, customers can set automation commands to turn appliances on and off, from anywhere.
Greenlet notifies customers about upcoming peak times. The company sends customers three messages (either over email or SMS): on the day before the peak, an hour before the peak, and when the peak ends. Customers always have the option to say no, and to monitor their own appliances during peak times. Customers are given the option to bypass the Greenlet with a push of a button on the gateway, or through an option in their web portal.
In both America and Israel, customers can receive rebates for reducing energy consumption during peak hours. “In the U.S., some of the electric companies pay customers $35 for each dollar saved during peak hours. This is a driver for a $3 billion market in the U.S.,” says Cohen. “For the utility companies and the end consumer, our system is ‘win win,’” he says. “We reduce peak consumption for the utility, and the consumer gets a large incentive/rebate for reduction during the peak. The US government drives the electric companies to give these rebates for peak reduction. Israel just adopted a similar program five months ago,” Cohen explains.
Using the Greenlet system can provide substantial total monetary and power savings over time. On average, Cohen believes that using the Greenlet system, customers can save one to 10 percent of energy and reduce their electricity bill by up to 20 percent.
The company is currently focused on the U.S. and Israeli markets and partakes in philanthropic projects in other regions. In Africa, Greenlet partners with the NPO Jewish Heart for Africa and monitors electricity generation on newly installed solar panels. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, several Japanese companies requested Greenlet Technologies to come and assist them in implementing energy management systems.
Avner Cohen has a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, and has worked for several Israeli technology companies in the past. Cohen and his co-founder Nir Marom were working for Precede, an entrepreneurship and investment firm, which teams up scientists with inventors, when they started Greenlet four years ago.
Greenlet has financial backing from three companies: Time Investment, Israel Clean Tech (based in Florida), and Supco, manufacturers of air-conditioning systems. The company hopes to become profitable by 2014, once the Greenlet system becomes more widely used in American and Israeli households.
Photo by nivekhmng