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Shifted Energy uses AI on this home appliance to make them 'virtual power plants' — and it saves homeowners money

Getting a box hooked up to your water heater also knocks about $3 off your monthly utility bill.

Shifted Energy uses water heaters

Photo Credit: iStock

Forest Frizzell and Olin Lagon, co-founders of Shifted Energy, had a moment of realization back in 2015 that led to over 3,000 low-income households in Hawaii becoming virtual power plants

Shifted Energy adds cellular-connected control units to electric water heaters, which are in pretty much every home in the state. It allows the company to control the electricity going to water heaters to help balance the grid during sudden shifts in supply from wind and solar power. 

Getting a box hooked up to your water heater also knocks about $3 off your monthly utility bill. 

The technology is fascinating — each water heater is equipped with artificial intelligence that learns what the user needs and when they need it, so there is no impact on people's hot water supply. 

With this technology, the water heaters can also take excess solar power off the grid during the day when too much is being generated for the grid to handle. 

Water heaters in Hawaii are typically the largest or second-largest source of power usage in homes, so being able to control how much electricity is going to them — and when — gives utility companies a lot of flexibility. 

Since Shifted Energy is utilizing something as common as water heaters, it's including a large portion of the population in its quest to move to clean energy. 

But Frizzell and Lagon didn't just stop at water heaters. They're also able to convert "pool pumps, home batteries, solar inverters, and EV charging stations into smart, flexible, distributed energy resources capable of providing multiple grid services without sacrificing customer comfort," as noted on the company's LinkedIn page.

Lagon is a native Hawaiian and co-founder of the Purple Mai'a Foundation, which inspires and educates "the next generation of culturally grounded, community-serving technology makers and problem solvers." 

Meanwhile, Frizzell was the Director of IT for utility Hawaii Gas and has been Board President for the Purple Mai'a Foundation since 2014. The two met when they worked together at what is reportedly the state's largest sustainability non-profit, Kanu Hawaii, so they are well-suited to tackle this issue. 

The two launched Shifted Energy in 2016 after Hawaii became the first state in the country to pass legislation to make electricity generation 100% renewable. Lagon was on the board to help the state meet that goal when he saw first-hand how the ideas to transition to clean energy weren't including low-income households. 

"I could see quite clearly that we were still going to suffer from inequity," Lagon told Canary Media. ​"Forest and I said, ​'We've got to fix this.'"  

Frizzell and Lagon are well on their way to fixing it. Shifted Energy just closed a $4.3 million seed funding round that will, in part, help them expand into the continental U.S. and Canada — so the company will include low-income households all over the country in the shift to clean energy

"We can't move forward with scaling clean energy programs without being more inclusive," Frizzell told Canary Media. ​"We have to work with these overlooked families."

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