Brooklyn hosts the first test market in the nation in which renewable power can be bought directly from neighbors
by matt Scanlon
Anyone who has even casually flipped through these pages is well aware that Brooklyn, perhaps more than any other urban center in the tri-state area, is a haven of self-sufficiency. A growing number of restaurants only source locally, and the number of “Made in Brooklyn” food, furniture, tech, and crafts makers grows monthly (just one of the many happy reasons why our annual job growth is solidly in first place among NYC’s five boroughs). Where we are hamstrung, however, is in the ways and means of selecting our local energy sources. Currently, Kings County residents have the option of selecting clean electrical power from Con Edison, which is largely generated from hydroelectric dams upstate. Our individually-generated sources are relegated to solar and wind power, and until now, the best residents were able to manage was using solar- and wind generated electricity just in their own homes. Any power a renewable system generated in excess of household needs simply got sent back into the grid without remuneration for the homeowner.
The Degraw Street-based company LO3 Energy has, with the cooperation of city officials, developed a revolutionary way of upending that paradigm—creating what is essentially a farmers market for power. Its TransActive Grid meter keeps track of renewable energy directed into the grid from individual customers, and allows others to purchase electricity directly from renewable power supplying neighbors. Using an app on a smartphone to interact with their utility meter, they can make these purchases through a block chain (the technological underpinning behind Bitcoin, though it and LO3 are not affiliated). In essence, it allows customers to circumvent the grid and buy power directly from neighbors, but company officials stress that this doesn’t have to represent a net loss for ConEd. Scott Kessler, director of business development at LO3 Energy, explained in a press release that small power markets offer flexibility—an alternative to small, costly, and heavily polluting local gas-fired power plants that augment needs when demand is high.
Internationally, there are dozens of similar open energy markets in countries like Bangladesh, Australia, and Germany, but LO3 chose Brooklyn as its first U.S. test location, and is currently connecting dozens of homes through its digital network, with an eye towards hundreds more.
LO3 Energy Brooklyn Lab
621 Degraw Street / 347.927.6563