SBIR Phase I: A Smartphone Incentive System to Align Electricity Demand with Intermittent Supply

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ikehu Natural, LLC
75-5660 Kopiko St., Suite C7154
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I project will address challenges that electric utilities face in maintaining stability of their grids as more and more intermittent renewable energy generating systems are added to them. Solar and wind are variable and thus complicate the process of balancing energy generation with consumption. The objective of this project is to show the viability of a software-based solution to assist with this balance, reducing the need for expensive energy storage. This service will provide real-time incentives to consumers via their smart phones to reduce or increase electricity usage in response to a request. Another objective is to demonstrate that machine-learning algorithms can help the service estimate consumer response rate based upon environmental, locational, and personal factors. The project will include a preliminary trial with residential electricity consumers where they will be sent requests in response to simulated conditions; some will be able to adjust loads from their smart phones. Electricity usage and other data gathered from the trial will be used to train and test the machine-learning estimators and to evaluate methods that validate whether the consumer performed as promised. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be to increase utilities' ability to add renewable electricity generation to their grids while minimizing the need for expensive compensating solutions like gas turbine peaking plants or energy storage. It will also lower peak electricity demand, further reducing the need for peaking plants and therefore reducing costs for utilities and consumers. The end result will be less reliance on fossil fuel for electricity generation, improving the nation's energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A second impact will be to improve customers' education and engagement with their energy consumption. As a result, consumers may be more likely to purchase and install energy-efficient appliances and home improvements, further reducing energy consumption. An increased technical understanding of that relationship, particularly given the proliferation of smartphones and related applications, will improve the ability to create incentives to foster grid friendly energy consumption.