Catalyst Winner's Software Recognized for Helping Thousands Pay Bills

April 4, 2018

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thunderstorm approacing solar carport
A large, damaging thunderstorm approaches a 1.6 MW solar carport at Peña Station NEXT in Denver, Colorado. Photo credit: Peter Bronski

Technology developed by former Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize winner, Gridmates, played a critical role in helping Direct Energy, an energy service provider with nearly five million residential and commercial customers in Texas, win the Underserved Markets Award in Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative's Best Practices Awards. The awards program was created to recognize practices, programs, and strategies from electricity providers that are shifting the focus of the energy industry to the consumer.

Direct Energy was selected for the award because its Neighbor-to-Neighbor bill assistance program enabled millennials to assist their lower-income neighbors with their energy bills after Hurricane Harvey. The bill assistance program uses Gridmates’ cloud-based crowdfunding platform to leverage peer-to-peer energy sharing to combat energy poverty. Energy sharing allows a consumer to “share” energy with someone who is in need of energy assistance, through donations credited to their monthly utility bill. In addition to its crowdfunding capabilities, the platform also allows for donations processing and includes an energy calculator.

Direct Energy worked with Gridmates to create an online contribution center to collect monetary donations in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which battered the Texas coastline and created power outages that affected thousands of people. The contributions were calculated and translated into kilowatt-hours and the number of days of electricity the donations provide. Contributions were then distributed to 34 community action agencies across Texas, and the program has assisted more than 57,000 customers pay their electric bills. To date, more than 15,000 users have visited the site to donate and learn more about the program.

The Gridmates technology was developed during the Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize contest, an open innovation program that aimed to catalyze the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar and energy efficiency marketplaces. Participants went through the contest’s four stages before demonstrating their innovations to a panel of judges. Gridmates won $80,000 for its crowdfunding platform.

Learn more about the Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize.