Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How TiVo Can Cut Your Electricity Bill By 15%

I was reading the May issue of Fortune Small Business, when I stumbled upon a great article. Inspired by TiVo, one company decided to create a device that cuts your electricity bill by 10-15%. How do they do it? Simple. Utility companies charge you different rates, depending on the day and time that electricity is consumed. The cheapest rate is at 3AM (no wonder). So this device accumulates electricity when it's cheap and then releases it during peak hours, when the rates are much higher. Brilliant, isn't it? Here is more from that article.

"Our product will allow customers to trim their bills painlessly," says CEO Peter Corsell. "Think of it as a kind of TiVo for electricity."

The device, called GridPoint Protect, is the size of a small file cabinet and connects to the circuitbreaker panel. (The company also offers a lower-capacity version designed for homes, which costs $10,000.) A built-in computer powered by a Pentium chip will make intelligent purchase decisions, buying when prices are low, then storing the electricity for later use. That will make it possible to run your company during the workday with cheaper electricity that you purchased at 3 A.M.

Corsell, 28, estimates that his device will shave a business's electric bill by about 15%. Assuming monthly charges of $2,500, the system would pay for itself in less than four years.

GridPoint Protect offers a second function: Because it stores electricity, it can double as a backup generator that is safer and faster than many models currently available. Standard generators run on gas or diesel, and their carbon-monoxide exhaust fumes can be dangerous. By contrast, GridPoint Protect uses safer gel-style batteries, similar to those that back up cellphone towers. Standard generators also take a few seconds to power up, but GridPoint Protect kicks in within about 30 milliseconds, fast enough to prevent a company's computers or other sensitive devices from crashing.

Founded in 2003, GridPoint has raised $18 million from venture capital firms and private investors and now employs a staff of 50, with no revenues until it sold its first units this spring. The company features an all-star board of advisors, including tech guru Esther Dyson and Bill Bradley, the former presidential candidate and longtime member of the Senate Energy Committee.

"It's a smart company, focused on a couple of regions where there's a real need in the marketplace," says Daniel Violette, a Boulder energy consultant.

Picture it - one day soon you might be at a cocktail party and encounter someone bragging not about his hot stock picks but about how much he saved on his electric bill.

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