What We Talk About When We Talk About Renewable Energy

Consider how much of life as we currently know it is made possible by electricity. Starting at home, there’s everything we plug in, from computers and televisions to toasters and fans. At work, consider the lights and air conditioning, the server rooms and the power tools. In our communities, electricity makes possible all of the above, as well as everything from mass transportation to professional sports games.

 

And this is only the tip of the iceberg! With electricity powering so many aspects of our lives, it’s reasonable to wonder how much of the electricity we use is renewable.

 

Energy is considered “renewable” when its use does not pollute water, air, or earth and its sources are renewed quickly. The sun, wind, water, and certain biomasses are all considered sources of renewable energy.

 

Nonrenewable and renewable sources of energy have both been used for thousands of years. Historians believe coal has been used for energy for at least 4000 years, beginning around 2000 B.C. when a wood shortage led people in China to use coal for heating and cooking. Quite a few years later, around 200 B.C., people in Europe were using waterwheels to grind their wheat and power other community activities. Since then, the world’s usage of renewable energy sources has ebbed and flowed due to influences as diverse as politics, war, and natural disasters.

 

Since at least the 1970s, when solar cell and wind technology became more cost effective for broader use while oil usage was under new and intense constraints, energy nerds have been making concerted efforts to develop and use more renewable sources of energy. It’s taken awhile, but their work is paying off. Forty years ago, renewable energy sources made up a tiny fraction of the energy we used in the United States. Today? Renewable energy sources are gaining on nonrenewable sources in higher and higher percentages.

 

According to the United States Department of Energy, 2017 has seen record power generation from wind, solar, and hydro sources. More and more new power providers are providing energy from renewable sources. Their work has led wind generation to increase by 16% and solar by a whopping 65% in just the past year. These numbers are expected to be higher by the end of 2017.

 

There is still work to be done. The grid was developed under an assumption that coal was god, and many old-school energy companies are heavily invested in nonrenewable energy. This said, Niagara Falls was one of the original sources of power for a state as large and diverse as New York – renewable energy has been a part of the plan and possibility since the start. Here at Drift, we are working to enable renewable energy providers and to connect power consumers with energy providers and sources that make sense for the long term.

Innovation, Renewables, and Grid Defection, Oh My!

Since the turn of the 20th Century, when creative engineers and scientists developed the first methods and routes for transporting power generated at Niagara Falls throughout the state of New York, the world’s use of electricity has been coexistent with innovation. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to consider some of the more recent innovations currently influencing and improving the energy industry.  Later installments will get to definitions and discussions of things like renewables and grid defection, but today let’s spend some time appreciating the phenomenal effects digital innovation has had on the recent course of electric history.

 

Digital innovators have influenced and improved every aspect of power and how we use it, from developing new ways to store electricity to increasing efficiencies at every point from generation to delivery.  In the twenty years since the turn of the 21st Century, we’ve seen massive gains in the ways we produce and deliver energy, as well as the invention of creative new ways of connecting consumers more directly to their power providers. (Ahem.)

 

Consider the Smart Grid. Scientists, engineers, and politicians noticed the need for structural improvements to North America’s electric grid (which is both magnificent and aging) as early as the 1980s.  Energy wonks and workers sought to avoid brownouts and blackouts, as well as to increase efficiencies. Innovations across the field – from smart metering and responsive sensors to creative new algorithms for better predicting the load on the system – eventually led to coordinated policy changes at the governmental level. Nearly thirty years of innovation culminated in implementation of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), signed by President Bush in 2007. Among other things, EISA officially endorsed, defined, and provided governmental support for the Smart Grid that we know and use today.

 

At Drift, we’re proud to be a part of today’s ongoing energy innovations. We’ve created accurate, intelligent software that increases efficiencies both when you receive your electricity and later, and when you’re billed. Our software also connects you, the consumer, with your power producers.  The algorithms and technology we’ve created are built to last, which means they’re built responsive, smart, and lithe.

 

The power grid is almost unimaginably large and underlies nearly everything we do. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine how those early innovators even dreamed it up – we’re impressed and grateful. Here at Drift, we consider today’s innovations to be just the newest tributary in the flow of innovation that’s been in progress since before Edison’s invention of the incandescent bulb.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Switch to Drift

Here are our Top Five Reasons old-school electric company customers ought to take three minutes right now and switch to Drift.

  1. Drift Costs Less

Whether you’re dedicated to green energy or focused exclusively on price, Drift will save you money. The energy you buy and use costs less at Drift and our costs of membership ($1 a week) are far lower than the endless fees and surcharges inflicted by other electric companies.

  1. Drift Connects Power Users with Power Providers

Drift brings elements of the maker movement to electricity by creating peer-to-peer connections between power users and power providers. We work with local power providers to maximize their efficiency and connect them with power users. Enabling connections like these not only contributes to stable, local economies, it also saves you money. (Any warm feelings you may get from keeping it local are purely a bonus.)

  1. Drift Makes Things Simple

Best Savings? Or 100% Zero Emissions? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Our uncomplicated sign up process offers you a straightforward choice. Then, our smart software enables you to simply and easily get the energy you want at prices that make sense.

  1. Drift Makes Things Clear

No middlemen. No weird fees. No problem understanding what you’re getting.

With Drift, you won’t ever have to wonder where your power comes from or what it costs. From our mission statement to our data, from back-end design choices to our web site’s user interface, Drift is dedicated to clarity and transparency. Our company was founded on the idea that we all benefit when unnecessary complexity is eliminated.

Life is complicated enough. Your electric bill really doesn’t need to be.

  1. Drift Is Not Your Father’s Electric Company

Innovative engineers in the 20th century came up with the electrical grid we still use today, all across North America. Drift honors the work of our engineering forebears by bringing 21st century technology to power delivery.

Our energy nerds work together with our user experience nerds to bring you the most modern, efficient experience possible. Whether you’re signing up or checking your bill, connecting with your local power provider or learning more about how energy reaches you, Drift’s smart design will make your experience better.

What does it cost to get my energy from Drift?

Drift members can save up to 10% on their energy bills – sometimes even more. How come? Our members pay for: actual energy used, the cost of getting that energy to you and Drift’s subscription fee. 

We use smart software to reduce the costs of your energy.

Energy costs are determined, in part, by energy forecasts. Forecasts are influenced by ever-changing factors, from weather to the relative costs of different energy sources. We have developed sophisticated algorithms and complex models, statistics, and code to create more accurate forecasts. This increased accuracy means you aren’t paying for inaccurately overpriced energy.

Margins are small in the energy business, but as we sought to increase efficiency across the board, we realized we could additionally reduce costs by selling power to our users at wholesale, rather than retail prices.

We invest in smart connections that save you money.

Drift partners directly with power makers. These partnerships are valuable for a few reasons.

By getting to know our power providers, we are able to work with them to reduce their production costs. When they save money? You save money.

We also know that zero-emissions energy doesn’t have to be more expensive. Our partnerships with clean energy makers enable us to provide you with clean energy directly, which means zero-emissions energy costs us (and you) less.

Knowing our power makers also means we know their billing cycles, and that results in more money saved. Remember, Electricity Grid 101? Power makers transform wind and water into electricity using enormous turbines. They decide when and for how long to run the turbines based on forecasts. In order for you to receive your electricity seamlessly, these forecasts are scheduled on a 7-day cycle.

Power providers bill based on this 7-day cycle. Traditional electric companies are billed by their power providers weekly, but bill their customers monthly. They accommodate for that disconnect by taking out bank loans to smooth the bumps associated with uncoordinated ebbs and flows of money. As we all know, bank loans aren’t free. Traditional electric companies pass the costs of their loans on to their customers.

Drift bills on a weekly basis to keep our power users in sync with our power makers. This connection means reduced overhead, which means you’re paying for energy (not the costs of bank loans).

And we cut out the middlemen.

We don’t believe in profiting from inefficiencies. Drift has done away with opaque fee structures and we work to keep our overhead low.  We’re proud to have replaced the myriad fees and charges of a traditional electric bill with a simple and clear membership fee of $1 per week.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

What’s a REC?

Your laptop is powered by a complex, interconnected system that stretches across the continent and began more than a century ago. Over the next few months, we’ll be bringing you a series of explainers about different aspects of the energy systems that power your life.

 

Today, to explain RECs, we’ve got to begin with a very brief Power Grid 101.

 

Energy all over North America is generated at power plants, where enormous turbines turn wind, solar, nuclear, coal, gas, and hydro sources into electricity. When you watch Netflix or turn on the air conditioner, electricity from power plants reaches your home or business via a series of sub-stations, transformers, and millions of miles of electrical wires.

 

Just as hundreds of rivers and streams upstate flow into New York City’s portion of the Hudson, hundreds of power plants provide your home’s electricity. And just as you can’t always tell where each droplet of the Hudson originated, it’s also sometimes impossible to determine where every individual unit of electricity originated.

So how can you be sure that your power is renewable?

Enter RECs. REC stands for Renewable Energy Certificate. Think of RECs as being a little like stock certificates. In business and in energy, certificates stand in for things that are otherwise difficult to hold in your hands – like the specific portion of the business a shareholder owns, or the individual unit of electricity powering your lamp.

 

Federal and state governments worked with power providers to develop RECs as a way of funding and encouraging renewable energy development. One REC is issued for every megawatt hour of power generated and delivered by a renewable source like wind, solar, or water. Each REC comes with complicated identifying information such as: where, how, and when the renewable energy was generated. When power companies like Drift buy RECs, the money goes directly to renewable energy providers.

 

What do RECs have to do with you? When you choose a Zero Emissions Power Mix, RECs help fill in the gaps. Because Drift is a nimble platform that uses smart software to seek the most efficient power available, we are often able to source your power directly from power providers who use exclusively renewable sources. However, the nature of energy development and use today means that sometimes, we’ll tap into energy streams whose origins are more diverse, and may include old-school power sources like coal or gas. When that happens? We’ll buy RECs to make up the difference.

 

The RECs we buy are local. In New York, our RECs support a hydroelectric power provider upstate. Every REC we buy will support local, renewable energy providers, which means RECs are one way we’re working to provide greener, more efficient energy for your home and business.

Welcome to the new Drift

Hello, New York City!

Welcome to Drift. We’re a new-school energy company dedicated to transparency, choice, and (pardon the pun) empowerment, and we’d love to be your new power company.

Transparency: Do you have any idea where your electricity comes from, or why you pay what you pay? Yeah, neither did we (and we’re energy geeks). We founded Drift to create clarity and efficiency in the energy sector, which has been opaque for way too long.

Choice: You decide what matters and we help you get it. Aiming for zero emissions? We connect you with electricity providers who help you meet that goal. Want the greatest possible savings on your electricity bill? Our platform will seamlessly connect you with the lowest cost providers – we’ve already helped customers save up to 20%.

Empowerment: Our mission literally is to empower you with the freedom to buy and sell energy based on what’s important to you, not what’s important to the power companies. We’ve eliminated middlemen and bureaucracy and replaced them with smart and responsive software.

How Do I Sign Up?

Sign up only takes about 3 minutes.  All you need is your current utility account number and your existing power bill cost. Then tell us how you want your power sourced and we’ll provide an estimated quote for you.

How does billing work?

Drift bills like the energy providers do – on a weekly basis. Each week, you’ll receive an email statement that clearly describes the breakdown of your weekly electricity costs. Drift’s subscription fee is only $1 per week.

This week we’re celebrating our official launch!  We’ve taken learnings from our beta users and are excited to bring you a new and improved Drift across the five boroughs.

To make our launch even sweeter, we’re giving you a chance to win a year of free power. Yup, you heard that right. Sign up for one entry, and for every friend you refer you’ll get an additional entry. Get all the details here.

Welcome to Drift, New York City. We’re looking forward to working with you.

The Paris Agreement just got personal.

This post was originally published by our CEO, Greg Robinson, on Medium.

Last night I went to bed knowing that something our team and I have been working on for over 2 years was going to launch in the press. I’m not exactly sure how or when I closed my eyes amidst the excitement.

Not long after dozing off, I woke up to see if I had missed the breaking story of Drift. I hadn’t, but I did see another headline that was trending. (No it was not duck #covfefe.)

We knew that starting a power company was going to be fraught with pressure to take a side on climate and energy issues. Forever trying to answer the unanswerable question, “Hey Drift, are you a good utility or a bad utility?”

We didn’t want to be a utility at all. We wanted to be a software company. A software company that lets everyone vote with their wallet for what they value. We are ferociously people focused. We have built an equal access energy marketplace where people CAN stand up for what they value by choosing to prioritize price or environmental impact.

But…

after waking up this morning to the POTUS saying thanks-but-no-thanks to a global agreement that directly affects our species, it is hard not to take a side. Personally.

Generally seen as a future possibility, people and businesses who choose the zero emissions option on Drift today are leaving their old utility and paying the same or less for 100% zero emissions energy.

So, if you live in New York City:

You don’t need to drop out of the climate deal. You can make your own, personal vote for the Paris Agreement, using Drift.

You can pay your power bill directly to zero emissions power makers, so that there can be more clean energy put on your local grid.

If you don’t live in New York City, join the Drift waitlist so we know where to go next.

Why 7 day billing?

As a Drift customer, you might have already read about our seven day billing schedule. We’ve made sure to communicate that everywhere we can – during the signup process, in our introductory emails and of course the weekly statements. With that said, we want to take a moment to explain why we charge the way we do.

First, it’s important to understand how the industry currently works. Traditional utilities work with big banks to make sure they have enough money to purchase your electricity for the month. This involves passing along the interest and other bank fees to you, the customer, in the power bill.

A new kind of company

We do things differently at Drift. Unlike most power companies, not only do we use smart software to get you the best energy prices everyday, but we also work directly with the people who make power.

Drift processes payments every seven days because that’s how often your local power makers are paid. By doing this we’re eliminating interest and other bank fees that you’re usually charged when paying monthly.

We help you save

Other power companies make more money when you use more power. We don’t. We charge a fee to keep our servers running, to keep our team working on new ways to lower your power bills on a daily basis. Our only mission is to lower the cost of power, for every person, everywhere.