Voltalis is small French startup installing smart "Bluepods" in French homes for free that 1) provide information to consumers about their energy consumption and 2) will cut off electricity in order to curb peak needs on the grid, generating demand response capacity.
Don't worry, your tv won't shut off abruptly as you're watching the last five minutes of a gripping movie. Voltalis' model focuses on electric heating - which consumes the large chunk of electricity in a house or building (if the heating is electric, that is).
During periods of peak consumption, if the electricity grid is not capable of meeting demand, BluePods will turn off connected electric radiators for 15-30 minutes, which has a negligible comfort impact on the resident, and a rather huge impact on grid flexibility.
If 100,000 radiators are connected via BluePods, Voltalis can generate a "power capacity" of 100MW, the equivalent of a small power plant.
If you've heard of Demand Response, this is it. Voltalis is not alone either. There are others in France like Energy Pool and Linky (not to mention the thousands of "smart grid" projects cropping up around the world).
And though Voltalis is small and has yet to be gobbled up by a big French energy giant, (Energy Pool is a subsidiary of Schneider Electric and Linky is a project by ErDF), Voltalis is making headlines.
Because what Voltalis lacks in website design, they make up for in action and business model. They install the BluePods for free (given the heating is electric), and they targeted Brittany to start, a region greatly "in need" of grid flexibility solutions. Brittany produces only 9.5% of the energy it consumes, often leading to grid issues in times of peak consumption.
Yes, Voltalis covers the cost of installing the BluePods. So how then, does Voltalis make money? They sell the "energy capacity" back to RTE, the company operating the high-voltage electricity grid (also a subsidiary of EDF, part of an incestuous network of energy entities, but we're not going to get into the details now).
What I especially like about Voltalis is that they make it so simple for the individual consumer to engage. The BluePod is accessible. We as individuals often feel powerless with regard to energy issues and often find ourselves asking "what can I do?". Well, here's a free and easy solution to do something. And learn. And make an impact.
And did I mention, save money? The BluePod will reduce your electricity consumption (and the associated bill) by about 10%.
I'm moving into a new apartment in Bastille in a couple weeks. Yes, with electric heating.
And yes, I'm about to sign up for a BluePod.