Model & Strategy

Clean, renewable energy has become a significant source of electricity in the US and worldwide. But due to weather patterns, renewables supply does not always line up with the demand for electricity. This causes massive amounts of renewable energy to go to waste each day — at times, California wastes enough renewable energy to power Arizona. With no way (yet) to store energy at scale, across the world we fire up polluting coal and gas plants to compensate when demand exceeds renewables supply, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

At the same time, about 70% of energy consumed worldwide could be shifted to a different time without impacting efficacy (e.g., charging batteries, refrigeration, or heating a house). WattTime provides groundbreaking Automated Emissions Reduction (AER) software, which works by detecting specific moments when using electricity won’t activate highly-emitting power plants, and automatically syncing electricity-consuming devices to use energy at those specific moments. It’s compatible with anything that uses electricity and has an Internet connection: from smartphones to thermostats, electric vehicles to industrial HVAC. WattTime immediately reduces greenhouse gas emissions by shifting demand from dirty to clean energy; in the longer term, deploying WattTime en masse across multiple device segments can shift the entire demand curve for renewable energy, driving better economics for renewables overall and, in turn, a faster shift to clean energy.

What if you could press a button and just say no to energy that didn’t fit your values? What would you choose? WattTime envisions a world where everyone, everywhere, could soon be empowered to decide that for themselves.

WattTime logo
At a Glance
Founded: 2014
Co-Founder & Executive Director: Gavin McCormick
Environment & Climate Change
Location of work: Domestic
WattTime
1111 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Giving everyone everywhere the power to choose clean energy.
Two men install a WattTime device on an HVAC system
WattTime entrepreneur Gavin McCormick headshot
Meet Gavin McCormick

Usually when you plug in anything that uses electricity, you have no way of knowing where the energy powering it is coming from. One minute, it can be a wind turbine. Five minutes later, a coal plant.

UC Berkeley PhD student Gavin McCormick realized that this constant change is actually environmentally helpful. If we could somehow know what type of energy we were getting, when, we could actually use this information to deliberately time devices to run at cleaner moments, reducing pollution.

Which begged the question, why exactly was it a secret when the power grid was clean, and when it wasn’t? So, after trying and failing to get power grid operators and utilities to release the information, Gavin tried a different tactic: he attended a hackathon.

There, Gavin met software engineers and grid experts with day jobs at places like Google, MIT, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Using emerging new statistical techniques, together the team developed software algorithms capable of detecting in real time how clean your energy will be if you use it at a certain moment. With that, WattTime was born.

Impact

WattTime’s core priority is deploying AER on a target of 26B devices, which could save 330M tons/year of CO2.

To date, over 1M AERs were deployed in 2020.

Adjacent projects have delivered major impact much faster than expected, including assisting California in cutting energy storage emissions by 100% sector-wide, launching the first global power plant emissions satellite monitoring system, and developing a related technology (Location-based Emissions Reduction) with 4.3B tons/year of CO2 emissions savings potential.

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