Pitch

We can leverage technology to affect mass scale change by nudging individual actors to consume more responsibly. www.enerj.co

Description

Summary

Tackling climate change while coming to terms with increasing energy demands [1] requires the global community to be mobilized as an integral part of the solution, rather than reserving the monumental task solely to scientists, engineers and policymakers. It is our fundamental belief that by making saving energy fun, social and rewarding, we can aspire to profound and widespread changes in energy consumption behavior, where every person is a discrete actor affecting impact at scale.

ENERj is a software service (SaaS) solution providing an innovative bottom-up approach to household and grid-scale energy management. The consumer-facing product is a mobile app which strives to put in every citizen’s hands the ability to affect change through incremental, context-specific changes in energy consumption behavior.

Unprecedented amounts of real-time data is currently being collected through widely deployed smart metering infrastructure [2]; however, it's value is not being fully leveraged. The intent with ENERj is to elevate data to it's carbon-saving potential, while offering collateral benefits to households, utilities and other key stakeholders in order to enable our solution to thrive in the difficult real world conditions that solutions to intractable problems often face.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the way we generate, transmit, and consume energy. ENERj is thus an engagement platform that fosters widespread participation in energy-saving actions by creating community around conservation, and providing compelling incentives to take action.

Traditional infrastructure development and policy enactment cycles are out of step with the challenges we face. ENERj responds to an urgent need to enhance energy efficiency and adopt intelligent asset management strategies. In these times of rapid change and dire need to curtail energy consumption in the face of climate change we have the ability to deploy our solution not in 5,10, or even 15 years, but right NOW.

What are the key outcomes and impact of your solution?

The time is ripe to convert billions of data points into actionable insights due to the convergence of two powerful ingredients:

  • widespread and increasing deployment of smart metering infrastructure [3]; and,

  • global smartphone penetration [4] connecting people with each other and information in unprecedented ways.

 

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”   - Peter Drucker

 

While today’s energy challenges are commonly framed around ramping up (clean) power generation, energy efficiency is easily forgotten, thus leaving the door open for developed nations to continue on with inefficient consumption habits and developing nations to make the same mistakes as developed nations. By nudging households to alter their everyday consumption habits, ENERj promotes energy efficiency and smart grid management bymaking the best use of existing infrastructure while accounting for the critical need to fine-tune supply, demand and storage of energy in real time as decentralized renewable energy generation and EVs transform the energy landscape.  Our solution is thus both technical and social in nature.

Simplified dynamics of ENERj

 

We envision ENERj as a powerful tool to aid utilities in their day-to-day operations and a key partner for governments to realize their energy transformation targets, as disclosed in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) [5]. From the perspective of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [6], the impact of ENERj is particularly relevant to the following themes:

UN Sustainable Development Goals

 

From a more local point of view, ENERj solves a real problem for the everyday consumer. In numerous energy markets around the world, prices fluctuate, particularly where time of use (ToU) pricing is a factor. Given that the billing interaction cycle between utilities and their customers occurs on a monthly basis for many, there is unnecessary stress for consumers in budgeting for energy, a basic need. For instance, more than 1 in 5 households in upstate New York were found to be more than 60 days behind on their electricity bill payments [7]. Without energy consumption feedback loops, a sense of powerlessness over consumption habits develops, thereby exacerbating the problem for both consumers and the utilities that serve them, particularly when considering that about 50 cents on every dollar spent on our electricity bills goes toward balancing the grid [8].

Evidence suggests that 81% of consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices to address social and environmental issues [9] and the trend is likely to be reinforced as the realities of climate change become more widely understood. The ENERj app therefore empowers the average person to convert these intentions in an accessible way by taking small actions which scale up to big impact, all whilst helping their wallet, engaging with their communities and social circles.

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What actions do you propose to realize your stated goals?

LEVERAGING EXISTING TOOLS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

In order to engage a wide audience and connect smart metering infrastructure data in real-time with consumers, smartphones offer an ideal medium particularly when considering that there will be 5.8 billion smartphones globally by 2020, up from 3.2 billion at the end of 2015 [4]. ENERj is thus a mobile app which provides a platform to link utilities with consumers and their data via Green Button [10], a standardized energy data API initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy currently bringing together more than 60 million households, and growing. Our total addressable market is all households around the world with smart meters. By 2020 this number is expected to reach 780 million and is projected to keep growing as digitization continues, thus expanding the reach of our app.

In targeting existing tools and infrastructure, we have no hardware to sell or deploy. The goal is to keep the barrier to experiment with ENERj as low as possible. We thus impart no costs on our users, minimize our own cost of doing business and make the best use of assets currently in service.

“Data can lead to behavioral changes. It can provide citizens with information that empowers them to take better-informed decisions...One thing we learned is that just sharing information can promote behavioral change.” - Carlo Ratti, MIT Senseable City

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

Strategic partnerships with key stakeholders having a vested interest in deploying our solution are integral to scale quickly to the masses and realize deep carbon savings.

  • Grid operators and conservation managers are an important target for ENERj. We are currently in the process of reaching out to understand their unique challenges and how we can best deliver value to their operations. By being able to control supply, demand and storage and real-time with greater granularity, grid managers can do without the need for expensive and sometimes highly polluting facilities used to supplement base load power generation. For example, Hydro-Québec has contracted with TransCanada to the tune of 389-million dollars between now and 2036 for the right to receive power from gas fired peaker plants for up to 300 hours annually during periods of peak winter demand in a deal that critics argue is due to “dicey demand forecasting” [13]. We break into the market by offering more competitive rates and greater performance over traditional investments in conservation and demand response programs.

  • The Green Button Alliance is a tightly-knit, far-reaching network in the energy data space. We have identified key contacts who sit on their Board of Directors while occupying executive roles within utilities. The intent is to demonstrate the value of ENERj and scale our solution to more Green Button Alliance members through positive word of mouth.

  • Government institutions at the federal, state and municipal levels yearn for solutions that leverage data insights to realize their energy transformation targets, and therefore represent key collaborators. In addition, they have the power to create conditions which are synergistic with ENERj’s platform.

  • Third-party reward partners and advertisers sharing our goal of cutting carbon contributions are important members of the ENERj community offering incentives to act on energy data, while offering reinforcing dynamics to the development of a clean economy.

  • Grassroots initiatives and international bodies such as the United Nations can serve as powerful means to communicate ENERj to the masses while helping us achieve continuous improvement in our stated carbon-cutting objectives.

SCOPE AND IMPLEMENTATION APPROACH

Transforming consumption behaviour is hard, but necessary if we want to tackle climate change and energy challenges. Furthermore, solutions to intractable problems face considerable friction and barriers to implementation. Maintaining the real-world feasibility and implementation of our solution are among our top priorities. We have witnessed too many similar ideas to ours struggle by aspiring to do too many things. Myko from our university is one such example.

While the overarching vision is and has always been to bring about changes in consumption behaviour within houses just as much as beyond them, we view ENERj as a natural first step focused on household energy data. Aspirationally, the intent is to aggregate as many data sources as possible (food, water, transport, consumer products, etc); however, our market research would suggest that the data sources are not currently quite as readily accessible and/or available independent of user input as one might expect. While there is certainly evidence that this is where things are moving, our SOLVE submission and implementation approach is focused on the steps we feel most confident in being implemented today and in the immediate future with buy-in from all relevant stakeholders.

Much like (successful) dieting, trimming carbon contributions requires a targeted, incremental approach. At the risk of taking on more than we can handle to begin with and shocking users with too many changes to their lifestyles at once, household energy data is an ideal place to start for the reasons described thus far. Though well-intentioned, all-encompassing solutions can be overwhelming which leads to a dropoff in engagement. Adherence to using such solutions increases when the amount of data to be self-reported by the individual is minimal. ENERj excels at that because it pulls data automatically from the utility and generates insights that the household can act on.

PLATFORM DESIGN

Our platform is designed to engage consumers regularly in a manner which is fun, social, accessible and rewarding. Our approach is deeply rooted in behavioral psychology and gamification strategies described in "The Psychology of Sustainable Behaviour" by Christie Manning [11] and Yu-kai Chou's octalysis gamification framework [12]. We provide daily incentives to take action on energy data insights in the form of:

  • Bitesized challenges which nudge households to consume smarter and more responsibly;

  • Friendly competition among neighbors and social circles with leaderboards and provide rewards in the form of virtual badges;

  • Tangible benefits through targeted reward partners, such as public transit authorities and sustainable, locally sourced products;

  • Push notifications to consumers during times of peak usage to inform households of the potential to realize savings in their energy bill;

  • Education through energy saving tips which leverage local data points to provide targeted information;

  • Fostering community around conservation through a social environment where people are encouraged and rewarded for sharing their own experiences and motivating others.

 

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Implicitly, the features above contribute toward:

  • Creating social capital around conservation;

  • Making the best use of existing infrastructure;

  • Providing invaluable insights that inform future infrastructure;

  • Managing supply, demand and storage in real-time;

  • Reinforcing dynamics that attract progressively more people, more savings, and more partners;

  • Promoting low-carbon lifestyles beyond the bounds of one's home through strategically selected reward partners.

 

Energy saving actions scale up organically with each person using ENERj. These savings manifest themselves in the form tangible reductions in carbon contributions while enabling energy grids to transition smoothly to renewable energies at costs which are not prohibitive to society. The community benefits of engaging with ENERj will be displayed in the app as a form of added reinforcement, on top of the personal benefits households are realizing with the app.

Saving energy at home is the root change people will make; however, the rewards derived from these changes in consumption behavior are intended to nudge society toward more responsible habits in a manner which is contagious (i.e. self-reinforcing through ENERj's social platform), thus contributing to the development of a clean economy. Simplified dynamics of ENERj

According to UNEP, 60% of total greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the energy sector [14]. Looking at both the more concrete and aspirational elements of ENERj, the carbon contributions achieved through the platform would be tremendous.

CHALLENGES

As mentioned above, changing consumption behavior is very difficult. In addition, what may work in one setting may not work in another. While ENERj has been carefully designed with the intent of incentivizing widespread changes in behavior, there is a risk that our approach will not prove effective, either immediately or over time. As data aggregators, we are in fact perfectly positioned to correct our approach in real-time by leveraging machine learning to understand what works and what does not work to affect changes to more responsible consumption habits. ENERj can therefore adapt incentives in a manner which is both real-time and location/context specific.

Other challenges with our solution include issues of personal/institutional privacy and security breaches. While perfectly valid, they remain challenges that will almost inevitably be managed in tandem with a host of global stakeholders as digitization continues around the globe. The recent news of foreign hackers meddling in a Vermont electric utility [15] highlights the reality of living in a digital world and reinforces the need to beef up security against potential cyber-attacks. Given the momentum of technology, finding robust solutions to these issues of national security is arguably more likely than moving to more primitive grid systems. In addition, our founder has a background in digital security.

With respect to personal privacy, collection and sharing of data is a sensitive subject that should be managed carefully against public backlash; however, the success of Google and Facebook would suggest a general openness of the vast majority of people as long as there are personal benefits to be had and a common understanding among both parties.

"We dont have a chance to meet the SDGs except through the information revolution...We need citizen's engagement. The irony is that expertise does not turn into policy until the public understands. In fact, there will be so much pushback on technologies that we'll find ourselves with solutions that don't get deployed unless there are new ways to engage the expert communities with public deliberation and democratic participation" - Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Network (Keynote at SOLVE MIT Inaugural Event, October 2015)

Work done so far:

Jan. 2016 - Jan. 2017

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Our team is deeply committed to ENERj and has worked very well over the past year in achieving the milestones that we set out for ourselves. We fully appreciate the investment of resources and expertise that MIT Solve will make in the chosen Solvers and believe that a strong return in terms of tangible impact and meaningful change is the most important outcome. The ENERj team consisting of Abhishek Gupta, Daniel Tarantino, Zoe Humeau and Martin Cayouette embody all the skills necessary to execute on the plan in the these initial phases. More details about their background and skill sets can be found on their user profiles on this platform.

The ENERj prototype is currently in development and target completion is set for end of Q1 2017. We are speaking to utilities about our offering and they have demonstrated an acute need for our solution, on top of our extensive research of the market opportunity ENERj represents. Integration with the Green Button Test Lab, a cloud-based sandbox providing access to real interval time series data is used to test our prototype, work out bugs and run simulations before taking ENERj to market.

In tandem with the pilots, the team will actively be seeking an initial round of funding in the order of $150K to sustain operations before becoming cash positive through a subscription model and value-added analytics services revenue stream.

Who will take these actions?

The actions will be carried out by ordinary people equipped with smartphones taking small actions on their household energy data insights which scale for big impact on the grid scale.

“Technology is changing the way we use energy and is helping consumers rationalize their choices. Smart grids, digitalization and improved energy storage will all help optimize energy production and use” - Marie-José Nadeau, Former World Energy Council Chair (Keynote Speech at 2016 World Energy Congress in Istanbul).

Inspired by the words of Jeffrey Sachs at the inaugural SOLVE event in October 2015 [16], solving climate change (and other intractable global problems) is very much a question of attention. ENERj plays a crucial role in bringing the impact of our daily actions to the forefront of our attention. This act is essential if we stand any chance to "reorient our global machinery" from the latest celebrity scandal or sporting match to solve real problems through small but globally additive everyday actions.

Importantly, our solution does not exist in a vacuum. It has roots in everyday actions by ordinary people and partnerships with real living organizations including:

  • utilities;

  • reward partners;

  • third-party companies interested in the data we collect (e.g. energy efficiency products);

  • governmental institutions;

In addition to that, we intend on becoming part of professional and industrial associations to market our solution directly to the utilities. We are also looking at potential reward partners who can help us augment the incentives we offer.

We are currently in early-stage talks with some utilities explaining our offering and getting deeper feedback on their specific needs. We can discuss with the SOLVE committee privately on request.

We have also conducted a survey of 85 households in a quest to find initial validation - if ENERj is something that they could easily insert into their daily activities while making incremental changes to their energy consumption behaviours. 96% of our respondents expressed strong interest in what ENERj has to offer.

Target geography

As a starting point, the target geography is households belonging to the Green Button Alliance (GBA). Spanning the United States and Canada, the GBA aggregates over 60 million households and businesses in a standardized data format that facilitates manipulation, thereby allowing us to scale our solution rapidly with fewer technical obstacles. The Green Button Alliance is set to expand to Europe, Australia, UAE and India in the near future, thus expanding our serviceable addressable market with lesser friction.

Our total addressable market is all households around the world with smart meters. By 2020 this number is expected to reach 780 million and is projected to keep growing as digitization continues, thus expanding the reach of our app. Navigant Research forecasts that global smart electric meter penetration will grow from approximately 30 percent in 2016 to 53 percent in 2025, crossing the 50 percent mark in 2024. [3]

What do you expect are the costs associated with piloting and implementing the solution, and what is your business model?

The mobile application is offered for free to consumers. Also, we have no hardware to sell or deploy as we partner with utilities that already have the required infrastructure in place. The goal is to keep the barrier to experiment with ENERj as low as possible. We thus impart no costs on our users and minimize our cost of doing business.

Our revenue stems from partnerships with utilities and third parties. We partner with utilities for a subscription model ($/customer/year), plus additional revenue streams generated via sale of the data insights we capture through everyday engagement of citizens with the app.

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During the first phase of ENERj's rollout, now through September 2017, we anticipate costs to be $52000 ($34800 towards payroll including taxes for one additional backend and one iOS developer to be hired starting June and August respectively , $1700 in technology costs (AWS, Slack, email and domain) , $2500 legal costs (incorporation, signing contracts with utilities) , $13000 professional associations memberships, conferences and travel. 

We anticipate revenues in this period to be $23900. Revenues during this initial period will come from pilot fees from the utilities ($5000 times 3 equaling $15000) and $8900 from the first commercial launch (conversion of the first pilot).

During the next phase from September 2017 to September 2018, we anticipate the total costs to be $498000 ($401000 payroll, rent $42000, technology $36000, legal $12000, office equipment and supplies $7000). Additionally, during this period we anticipate revenues coming in from our commercial deployments in terms of monthly income totaling $604000 (based on reaching our target of 8 utilities as surveyed earlier). ENERj will be cash-flow positive in September 2018. 

Timeline

Time is of the essence if we intend to combat climate change and address our energy challenges. In the short term, we are targeting mature markets where the smart metering infrastructure needed is already in place. Moving forward, we can scale our solution in parallel with the rapid deployment of smart metering infrastructure around the globe, thus realizing the widespread carbon saving potential of ENERj.

Jan. 2017 - Dec. 2017

We have planned 3 pilots with 1000 households in each of the pilots. These will be run with 3 different utilities starting in the months of April, June and August 2017 respectively. Over the next few months up to the end of 2017, we plan to convert the first pilot into a commercial deployment in August 2017. The second and third pilots will be converted into commercial deployments in October and December 2017 respectively. To achieve these targets, we will be bringing in additional team members as follows : backend developer (May) to help manage the upcoming pilots, additional backend developer and iOS developer (July) to support the commercial launch, Android developer (September) to begin ENERj’s Android version and additional Android developer (November) in anticipation of the new commercial deployments in 2018.

Jan 2018 - Sept 2018

After having 3 commercial deployments by the end of the previous year, we aim at expanding the offering to an additional 5 utilities, launching in February, April, June, July and August 2018. With the onboarding of larger utilities towards the end of this period we will see a rise in magnitude of users; to accommodate for that an additional backend developer will be hired in June 2018 to help scale the backend infrastructure.

Sept. 2018 - Sept. 2020

A progressive rollout of ENERj by leveraging referrals within the closely-knit and far-reaching Green Button community will accelerate the positive impact of ENERj, particularly as reinforcing feedback loops of more and more people engaging with ENERj kick in. 

Related solutions

Related industry solutions:

Solutions like Opower, Wattsly, Eyedro, Tendril and Bidgely are good at analytics and data visualization; however, they struggle to get people to act compellingly on the information - the most important part. Other mobile apps such as the UN “SDGs in Action” are on the right track by promoting education and community action; however, they lack user-specific information and incentives to convert intentions into concrete actions. We believe that connecting actionable data insights with a deep psychological understanding of what drives human behaviour is our key differentiator.

Related solutions from academia:

Myko covers a broad spectrum of categories defining an individual’s environmental impact

Related SOLVE solutions:

Carbonality touches upon the idea of providing positive reinforcement in waste disposal and recycling

Joro monitors transportation, product consumption and energy use data - a smaller subset of the categories explored by Myko as mentioned above 

References

 

Website: www.enerj.co

Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ENERj_official

Medium: www.medium.com/@ENERj

 

Some of our thoughts and ideas written by us on our Medium blog:

How We Can Help Turn the Promises of the Paris Agreement into Reality: Reflections from our time in Marrakech

How Your Kids Can Be On the Front Lines of Fighting Climate Change

COP22 and the Tale of How One Person Can Save the World from Climate Change

Smartphone, meet the Grid

 

[1] World Energy Council (October 2016). “World Energy Scenarios 2016 - The Grand Transition”..

[2] Energy Digital (January 2017). “The Global Smart Meter Revolution”.

[3] Navigant Research (2016). “Market Data: Smart Electric Meters, Advanced Metering Infrastructure, and Meter Communications: Global Market Analysis and Deployment Forecast”..

[4] GSMA (2016). “The Mobile Economy”

[5] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. INDC Portal.

[6] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Sustainable Development Goals..

[7] National Grid (April 2016). “The Democratization of Energy: Climate Change, Renewables, and Advancing the American Dream”.

[8] Danco, Alex (August 2016). “In a world of energy mainframes, our “PC meet the Internet” moment is very close”. Medium.

[9] Sustainable Brands (May, 2015). “Stakeholder Trends and Insights”.

[10] Green Button. <http://www.greenbuttondata.org/>

[11] Manning, Christie (September 2009). "The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior". Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. <https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/p-ee1-01.pdf>

[12] Chou, Yu-Kai (March 2015). "Octalysis - Complete Gamification Framework". <http://yukaichou.com/gamification-examples/octalysis-complete-gamification-framework/>

[13] The Globe and Mail (January 2016). “Wait--Quebec has a billion dollar gas scandal too?”.

[14] UNEP. "Goal 7 : Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all" 

[15] Eilperin, Rachel (December 2016). "Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say". Washington Post. 

[16] Sachs, Jeffrey (October 2015). Inaugural SOLVE event. <https://youtu.be/3-BO4TXxloc?t=1h3m25s>

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Solution Summary
ENERj : a fun, engaging and rewarding way to save energy
Team Solution: Only members listed on the Solution's Contributors tab will be able to edit this Solution. Members can request to join the Solution team on the Contributors tab. The Solution owner can open this Solution for anyone to edit using the Admin tab.  
By:  ENERj
Challenge: Fuel: Carbon Contributions
How can individuals and corporations manage and reduce their carbon contributions?