Sustainable Energy

We've given cash to charity, what about energy?

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Would you donate energy?
Would you donate energy?

Energy poverty – or a lack of access to modern energy services – is still a huge problem for the world's poor in both developed and developing economies, so why not donate energy to people who need it?

According to the International Energy Agency more than 1.3 billion people around the world have no access to electricity, while 2.6 billion lack access to clean cooking facilities, forcing them to use potentially dangerous fuels and stoves to heat their homes and prepare their meals.

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In the United States, Austin, Texas based Gridmates is hoping its bright idea – to create what it describes as, "the world's first cloud platform that enables peer-to-peer energy sharing," – can improve the lives of people without proper access to energy.

Gridmates have teamed up with another Texan concern, faith-based non-profit Mobile Loaves & Fishes, to pilot its program at the Community First! Village, a sustainable community built for disabled and homeless people in Central Texas.

After signing up, users of Gridmates select the amount of money they would like to donate. Then, using PayPal, the money is transferred to a Mobile Loaves & Fishes bank account, which is in turn "connected to the utility bill of the Community First! Village."

"Using Gridmates you can… see, in real time, the conversion in energy and also see the impact," George Koutitas, CEO and co-founder of Gridmates, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. "$20 [is]… approximately equivalent to 250 kilowatt hours," Koutitas added. "For the Community First! Village this means nine days of energy for a person, a resident of the village."

If the idea – essentially one based on combining technology with kindness – behind Gridmates takes off, people could eventually have the ability to provide energy to anyone from friends and relatives to charities.

"We want to educate people to save energy in their homes, protect the environment, but also help their community, help millions of people around them that… cannot afford to pay for their energy needs," Koutitas said.

For Alan Graham, Founder and President of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the partnership with Gridmates is nothing but positive.

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"The thing that we love about this is that it actually broadens the 'halo impact' of the work that we're doing, and more people come into the light of this work," he said.

"Gridmates is reaching out to the edge of that halo and expanding how far that halo goes out," Graham added.