The first community powered by crowd-sourced energy is about to switch on. More than 200 microhouses will provide refuge to people with disabilities who have been chronically homeless. In addition to a medical facility, vegetable garden and aquaponics system, the residents won’t have to worry about electricity bills.
That’s because the group behind the project, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, has partnered with Gridmates — a mobile app that makes it easy for the public, businesses and nonprofits to donate energy. Gridmates’ app allows potential energy donors to find someone to help and to choose how much energy they want to donate. The monetary equivalent of these kilowatt hours will be added to the donor’s energy bill and credited to the recipient’s. Donors also receive personalized energy-saving tips to balance out their donations, down to learning the exact amount they will save (and have available to donate) if they adjust their refrigerators to a specific temperature.
Could we turn the lights on across the globe?
Gridmates chief executive George Koutitas said the company is in talks with utilities in New York, Texas and California to start offering the ability to donate units of electricity — instead of dollar-equivalent donations — directly to a recipient’s utility account. Someday, he’d like to create a platform for sharing water and gas as well.
The idea came to him in his home country of Greece while he watched a news program about impoverished people living by candlelight. “I thought I needed to do something to help them,” said Koutitas, a professor of wireless communications. “I realized there was no platform that would make it easy to donate or share my own electricity.”
He plans to expand the platform internationally, based on where users register and which countries rank highest in energy poverty.