Crowdsourcing the fight against energy poverty

According to the International Energy Agency, 1.3 billion people in the world lack access to electricity. Dr. George Koutitas said there are about 40 million people in the U.S. with this problem.

“Energy poverty means they cannot afford to meet their basic energy needs,” Koutitas said. “Light for homes during the night, power to cook meals, heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.”

Koutitas founded his program, Gridmates, to help meet this need. Gridmates is designed to eliminate energy poverty through peer-to-peer energy sharing.

“Imagine using your smart phone or laptop to share energy with those in need,” he said. “We allow people to donate kilowatthours to people experiencing energy poverty.”

At the Gridmates website, users can donate electricity on a dollar basis, or buy an amount in kilowatthours.

The website will also tell you roughly how many days of power your donation will buy. $20 buys about 250 kWh.

The program, which has its headquarters in Austin, Texas, teamed up with another Texas organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes, to pilot a homeless outreach project called the Community First Village.

The village provides a home for about 240 chronically homeless people with housing, workshops, gardens, study areas, medical facility and other resources — and Gridmates and its donors provide the power.

“The Community First Village is designed to restore the lives of homeless people in Texas,” he said. “It is an entire community to restore the lives of homeless people.”

The village has an open date of about April 2015.

Gridmates won a business innovation award from the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Catalyst program in December 2014.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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