This WattTime/Microsoft software lets you choose the cleanest energy in real time

by Brianna Crandall — December 13, 2017 — At the recent COP23 global climate event, WattTime, a software startup and subsidiary of the low-carbon advocate Rocky Mountain Institute, and technology giant Microsoft launched a new way to give customers the power to understand and reduce their carbon emissions.

Wind turbines and solar plates making green energy

WattTime software unlocks the power of energy users to choose the electricity they use.

WattTime will now support European data on carbon emissions on Microsoft’s free and open-source platform. WattTime says it will be the first software to automatically detect the precise carbon emissions caused by using or generating electricity at any particular time and place in Europe, in real-time. WattTime and Microsoft have collaborated using US data since early 2017.

Norwegian utility Agder Energi will be the first organization in Europe to deploy the software, with plans for rollout across the rest of Europe to follow.

Gavin McCormick, WattTime cofounder and executive director, remarked:

Emerging cloud-based technology is increasingly challenging the old paradigm that reducing emissions has to require costly, time-consuming approaches like building new physical infrastructure. It’s exciting to see new software tools capable of automatically, effortlessly cutting carbon footprints, integrating renewable energy and balancing grids at the click of a button.

The tool can inform operators of energy-consuming equipment — from smartphones to large energy storage facilities or entire hydroelectric dams — of the carbon implications of consuming or producing energy at particular times. Armed with this data, consumers and operators can adjust their behavior and operating plans to instantly achieve emissions reductions at a very low cost, with no new equipment or change in operations.

The tool is also useful for policymakers looking to lower carbon emissions, points out Watt Time. For example, policymakers could introduce price incentives for people charging electric cars to do so at times of lower emissions, or the charging could be automated to correspond to times that would reduce consumer’s costs and emissions. This would facilitate more renewable energy on the grid by moving demand curves to correspond to renewable generation, thus also allowing the integration of higher levels of renewables.

With this new tool, it will be possible to compare renewable energy projects across Europe (as already across the US) to determine where projects have the biggest carbon-reduction impact.

This release builds off a previous collaboration with Microsoft on the Smart Energy Azure Demonstration open-source platform that provides data on generation source, average carbon emissions, and marginal carbon emissions. And because the grid’s energy mix changes based on the weather, the platform also pulls in global weather data and forecasts from the Wunderground API.

Conor Kelly, software engineer in Energy Analytics and Automation at Microsoft, stated:

We’re seeing the advancing capability of data, machine learning and IoT technologies coupled with the reducing cost of distributed energy resources to decarbonize electricity grids and reduce consumer costs.

Jamie Mandel, principal at Rocky Mountain Institute, added:

WattTime’s offering is a great example of how technology can lower the cost and increase the possibilities for emissions reductions globally. By unlocking new ways for customers to reduce emissions, WattTime can empower customers to accelerate the transition to a cleaner electric grid.

WattTime is a nonprofit software startup founded at UC Berkeley with the mission to unlock the power of energy users to choose the electricity they use. WattTime’s first software product automatically detects which power plants will meet each user’s demand and how clean that power will be. With this information, WattTime makes it possible to actually select which power plants your devices rely on.

With a simple software update, smart-device owners can instantly and automatically reduce their carbon footprint and help clean energy compete on the grid with no impact on users. In 2017, WattTime joined Rocky Mountain Institute as a subsidiary organization to more quickly scale this technology to people and companies that want to consume the cleanest power.