Should a state of “free” green-electricity only be possible in a zombie-infested world, where civilization as we know it has opted out? Or can the electricity market be nudged in a more sustainable direction?
Welcome to an electrifying tale about an award winning startup.
Lastbörse – smart stromsparen is a startup determined to cut your electric bill by 30-50 percent and significantly reduce the non-renewable energy consumption – throughout all of Germany and Austria.
By letting people know when to chill with all their electrical appliances.
Ok, like all the time?
Naw, just for an hour during peak consumption, approximately four times a month.
And before we continue, here is a quick peak at the talents behind Lastbörse
Wolfgang Kurzböck is an Austrian power engineer and expert on electricity markets. Wolfgang is the logical and technical head of Lastbörse. He has a meticulous sense of structure and is immensely keen on changing the energy market in Europe. He shares this passion with Sandra Persson, who is Lastbörse's creative head and strategic communication expert. Sandra guides the technically complex topics at Lastbörse into a concept for the people. And you know what? The Austrian government just rewarded them with 6000 euros and a chance to become one of top 3 startups in Austria. High praise for their business idea, plan, and overall ability. Well done!
But, let’s take this story from the beginning.
Understanding the grand effects of Lastbörse’s seemingly easy or even narrow approach makes most mortals (i.e. non-electrical engineers) baffled. As general consumers, we often take the grid for granted and don’t put much thought into how the electricity market a c t u a ll y works.
If an entire nation would go all in during this* awareness hour for climate change, the power plants would “implode”. And getting the power back on would require some serious Ctrl+Alt+Delete-actions. Hello, Dark Ages!
So, while energy supply is a tad more complicated than “just” flipping the switch, Lastbörse is not. At least not for the end user. And this turns the story about Lastbörse into an electrifying tale about a change made easy and the power of good timing.
With a little help from the living dead. How Wolfgang came up with the idea.
There are plenty of power plants gone bad in the TV series The Walking Dead. Energy supply in this post-apocalyptic world is scarce, and Earth Hour has become a 24/7 endeavor. Ok, not entirely. Obviously. People are using generators that run on diesel or gas. And sometimes they even cook food on electric stoves powered by solar panels. Like in a town called Woodbury, which is a sanctimonious safe haven that seems to have it all. Woodbury is introduced to the viewer in season three.
Seeing these solar panels made Wolfgang Kurzböck raise an eyebrow.
If they don’t have a battery system for storing the electricity, people can only cook during the day, which is an OK price to pay since nobody is paying any electric bills. But, should this state of “free” electricity only be possible in a zombie-infested world, where civilization as we know it has opted out?
The notion frustrated Wolfgang because the answer is kind of yes. In “the real world” choosing renewable energy over conventional seems to cost more instead of less. Why is that?
Yes, why is renewable energy not the cheapest option?
No one pays the sun, the wind or the rivers any fees for the power they generate. While this is true, the price for renewable energy is affected by other variables, such as subsidies. And unlike the solar power distribution system in The Walking Dead, the clean energy produced on a national level still has to go through the general distribution system.
But still, does it really have to be more expensive? No, and in all honesty, it isn’t always.
How is the price on electricity set?
Whether renewable resources are involved or not, getting a grip on how the energy market functions is almost like learning code when you’re 54 – a dire subject that deserves an entire article of its own. So, let’s just say that the price setting involves an intricate system of generators, distributors, retailers, and wholesale markets.
It is also a system that often crosses national borders, connecting countries for international trade. Which can come in handy when the demand for energy is surprisingly high. Like, for example, when almost everyone in a country, after finishing an episode of an extremely popular TV series, simultaneously switches on approximately 1.75 million electric kettles. Yes, true story.
If you want to get cheap renewable energy, timing is everything. Because one deciding factor with renewable energy is availability – the water has to flow, the wind has to blow and the sun has to shine. When the production of renewable energy is low, other non-renewable energy sources step in.
Wolfgang Kurzböck pushes the insight to its edge through some follow–up questions:
Is a world that only uses renewable energy possible? Maybe eventually. But, what happens if there isn’t enough wind, sun or water for a period of time? We could buy electricity from a neighboring country. But, what if the situation is scarce there too?
This is not an argument for more coal power plants. On the contrary. Increasing the share of renewable energy to a maximum is crucial.
Germany is showing the way
On average, renewable energy provides for 30 percent of Germany’s electricity demand today. That is three times more than it did a decade ago and more than twice what the United States can do today. By 2030, the country aims for an average of 50 percent.
The reason Lastbörse is launching its services in Germany (and Austria, which is basically the same electricity market) has to do with this rapid green transformation, known as Energiewende.
“Ten years ago my idea would not have been tangible,” says Wolfgang and explains that the very point of Lastbörse is to reduce the need for non-renewable energy consumption when the demand for electricity is peaking.
How does Lastbörse work?
- As a Lastbörse subscriber, you will receive a text telling you to turn off your electrical appliances during an upcoming hour. You will receive this text when Lastbörse can see that there is a growing tidal wave of energy demand.
- Lastbörse has figured out that there are on average not more than four such waves per month that happen to synchronize with low renewable energy production.
- Signing up for Lastbörse is easy. Following through would also be disproportionally rewarding.
Saving money and planet
Wolfgang explains that every household could save about 300-400 euros a year by acting on the four texts per month. And with each participation, a household would help to turn down a non-renewable power plant.
How can the impact be so big?
“It’s like the Pareto Principle, where 80 percent of the results comes from 20 percent of the effort”, says Wolfgang.
A windmill does not stand still very often in Europe, but to be prepared for a worst-case scenario where no green energy is available, we would need power plants using non-renewable energy on standby – or – Lastbörse. "Because with Lastbörse in full action the need for non-climate-friendly power plants on standby would be significantly diminished," Wolfgang says and points out: "It practically goes without saying that the cheapest and most sustainable option would be Lastbörse."
When can people sign up for Lastbörse and be a clever contributor to more sustainable energy consumption?
Everybody with an electric bill in Austria and Germany can already sign up for Lastbörse. Just go to the website, here. “But since we are a startup in the launch phase, we have some crucial tasks ahead,” says Wolfgang.
As soon as Lastbörse has enough people/region signed up, they will initiate talks with the relevant energy providers so the concept can kick into gear. This means that the participant will be offered a new electricity tariff contract.
The biggest challenge right now is reaching people
Wolfgang and Sandra explain that even if the concept is quite simple for the end user, the challenge that lies ahead is to get participants from every city or region in Germany and Austria.
“Needless to say, PR and marketing efforts will be crucial,” says Wolfgang and underscores how absolutely invaluable it is to have communication expert Sandra Persson on board.
Can Lastbörse become a global phenomenon?
Yes, it can. Even in countries with less green energies. “But, – and there is a big ‘but’ here,” says Wolfgang. “It will be much more difficult in those countries since the supplier’s financial incentive offering a more flexible pricing system through our concept, would be low – at least if they don’t have an idealistic drive for pushing green energy usage.”
But, first things first. The lucky inhabitants of Germany and Austria are first in line.
Here’s an overview of Lastbörse’s long-term plan.
And how about that name, what does Lastbörse mean?
Last means load, like the power output from a power plant, and refers to the electricity consumption. Börse refers to a stock market. Simple as that. Oh, and don’t forget the tagline: Smart Stromsparen – Clever Power Saving.
Rome was not built in a day. Nevertheless, Øretopia is convinced that Lastbörse will change the energy market one region at a time, and trillion times faster than any ancient civilization was built. Giving the entire world yet another reason to gaze towards Germany and Austria for sustainable inspiration.
Don’t hesitate. If you are a German or Austrian citizen, head over here to learn more and sign up. And if you want to talk to Sandra or Wolfgang directly, send them an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. They would be glad to hear from you.