Surge suppressors are about to get upgraded. Via wireless, networks and virtual reality, they are about to become — in a way — the newest type of renewable energy: negawattage.
Coined by Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, “negawatt power” refers to something that isn’t there or that is being reduced. If you are using 100 watts an hour, and suddenly get by on 50 watts, you can be said to produce 50 negawatts. A startup called Greenwave Reality claims that it can combine three technologies to save 30% of the average home’s $1,800 annual electricity bill. Deployed broadly, enough negawatts can be produced to take the place of hundreds of power plants that don’t have to be built. Greenwave combines three technologies:
- Home-based consumer electronics, including unique surge suppressors, a wireless gateway that recognizes the “digital fingerprint” of any plugged-in device and a display about the size of a mousepad.
- A data center that can handle the information from up to 100,000 homes, matching power usage characteristics with the devices plugged in, to create estimates and forecasts of power use and expenses.
- A rapid, patented 3-D home design program that allows a consumer to click around and come up with a sort of dollhouse version of her home, with little symbols for every device that uses electricity, and to input preferences for times that various devices and rooms can be shut off, in order to utilize all “what if” calculations towards the goal of saving 30% of electricity consumption.
Greenwave Reality is not an ordinary startup. The founding team includes a former CEO of Walmart, and other corporate megastars. What really distinguishes Greenwave, though, is that it has an agreement with the “Electricity Savings Bank” of Denmark to install its negawatt creating systems in 500,000 Danish homes. This unprecedented roll out is timed to be the major inspirational announcement at COP-15, the United Nations Copenhagen conference that takes place Dec. 7–18, 2009.
Many hope that this conference will create a new and improved replacement for the Kyoto Treaty. The Danish government hopes that the leaders of over 180 countries will see Denmark’s example as worthy of emulation. Given that buildings are the number one user of electricity, and consume 48% of all energy, Greenwave (and competitors) could save as much as 14.4% of all energy. Let’s hope Greenwave succeeds in spreading the negawatt way.