Charging your phone on a hot summer’s day emits more carbon emissions than charging your phone at any other time of year.
It’s not because the summer heat creates a thirst in your mobile device that only be quenched by accelerating the effects of climate change.
It’s because under the sweltering summer heat, everyone cranks their air conditioners to full blast — pushing electricity demand past the grid’s normal (baseload) capacity.
When electricity demand is so gargantuan that baseload capacity cannot keep up, utilities fire up their fleet of gas generators that are able to quickly supply the grid with electricity as soon as an uptick in demand is detected — but emit a copious amount of carbon dioxide in the process.
These gas plants are the reason using electricity in the summertime is so carbon intensive.
Unlike baseload power plants — which are equipped with the latest efficiency technology and keep carbon emissions to the bare minimum — gas plants operate with a single-minded focus of generating electricity as quickly as possible.
Which means they are notoriously inefficient and release an obscene amount of greenhouse gases into the air — more than 60 percent more nitrogen oxides and 40 percent more carbon dioxide than baseload power plants, according to some estimates.
To combat this, utilities across the world are offering peak shaving incentive payments to homes and businesses that voluntarily reduce energy load on the grid during peak electricity hours.
But, as per usual, Burlington, Vermont is taking the incentive program one step further.
Burlington meets blockchain
Through a combination of renewable generation, energy storage, and blockchain, it may be possible to accelerate the shift away from dirty fossil fuels towards cleaner energy sources. Historically, because of the steps involved in signing up, evaluating, changing operations, and complicated processes for compensation, only large industrial customers would participate in peak shaving. In many cases, this still looks like utilities paying large customers to turn on diesel generators.
With an eye towards streamlining the process, Burlington Electric Department is partnering with Omega Grid to integrate blockchain into their peak shaving pilot — a project that received a prestigious DEED grant from the American Public Power Association for its contribution to developing more energy efficient systems.
Omega Grid’s blockchain-powered platform enables Burlington residents participating in the program to automatically receive tokens in exchange for reducing their electricity use at designated times — essentially, paying residents to keep electricity use to a minimum when gas plants are pumping the dirtiest electricity into the grid. Omega Grid will then exchange the tokens the following month for the dollars Burlington saved.
If Burlington is able to keep its electricity demand within a moderate range during peak electricity, their utility expects to be able to reduce annual energy costs by about US $10 million. Even better, the Burlington Electric Department promises to pay customers 70% of the savings the city realizes.
How you can be part of the solution
The long-term goal of the project in Burlington is to shift energy consumption habits to be greater when the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and reduce demand when dirty fuels are choking the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions.
That means that if Burlington residents turn down the AC a tad, or even just refrain from running the dishwasher until the evening, they can both reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND make money.
And for residents with a smart plug or thermostat, all they have to do is plug into the Omega Grid system to automatically determine what time they want to reduce their energy use — the smart device will do the rest.
For anyone lucky enough to live in Burlington, sign up for the program here! Make a positive impact on the planet and make some extra cash. What’s not to love?