A carbon counter to help people reduce their environmental footprint

  • 09 Aug

A mobile app, a smart meter and the power to choose: this is what Flick Electric is offering New Zealand consumers in order to help them to monitor the CO2 content of the national electricity mix in real time and take action to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Earth Overshoot Day came a little earlier this year. As of 1 August, we human beings had consumed the equivalent volume of resources that our planet is able to produce in one entire year. So what about the companies that have come up with technological solutions for extending the date from which Humanity is living on credit? For one, San Francisco-based startup OhmConnect encourages people to adopt a ‘greener’ approach to living by rewarding them for unplugging their electronic equipment during peak electricity consumption periods, which helps to avoid power companies switching on their high-CO2-emitting peaking plant.

A second example is New Zealand power supplier Flick Electric, which has similar ideas – i.e. nudging electricity consumers towards making the right choices, both for the planet and their wallets. Flick Electric started out from the basic principle that if people are going to reduce their environmental footprint they first of all need to be aware of how much carbon dioxide is being emitted as a result of their activities. The company has therefore integrated into its app a personal carbon output calculator. Consumers equipped with a smart meter in their homes can monitor the electricity generation mix at any given moment and so work out the precise environmental impact of each of their power consumption decisions on a half-hourly basis.

The Flick Electric website explains that customers’ electricity supply is not always ‘clean’ because it is drawn from the national grid, which is fed by various different power sources – including renewable energies like solar and wind-power and fossil fuels such as coal. However, the Flick app enables Kiwi customers to monitor which power generation sources are being used at a given time of day and to decide on that basis whether and when to switch on the washing machine or turn on the TV. Aside from the environmental argument, there is also a financial aspect: ‘greener’ electricity – i.e. when there is a lot of renewables-sourced power in the grid – tends to be cheaper. And when energy savings and household budget management go hand-in-hand, that gives us hope for the future of the planet.

By Sophia Qadiri