Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

Drift Offering 'Peer-to-Peer' Power Network in New York Rollout

  • Drift lets customers get power from local wind, solar systems
  • Service will expand into other U.S. markets this year

A Seattle-based energy startup is offering consumers and businesses a way to power their homes with energy from their neighbors’ rooftop solar systems, nearby wind farms and other sources of clean electricity.

Drift Marketplace Inc. is rolling out the service now in New York and plans to expand to other markets this year, according to Chief Executive Officer Greg Robinson.

The company charges customers a flat fee, and then uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict how much energy customers will need. It gets the power a day ahead from nearby solar plants, wind farms and other resources, and if demand exceeds supply, will use a high-frequency wholesale power-trading system to cover any shortages. Robinson said customers will typically save money compared to their regular utility bills.

Robinson said he wanted to build a service that lets people gain control over their energy supply, in the same way that big corporations like Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are already doing.

“We thought if they can see the value, we can build a software platform that helps everyone have that same value,” he said.

Drift calls itself a peer-to-peer energy company, and has raised $2.1 million in funding from investors including First Round Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, SV Angel, Liquid 2 Ventures, Third Kind Venture Capital and Acequia Capital.

The retail electricity market can be brutally competitive as companies work with thin margins and jostle to add customers. In the U.S., 17 states and the District of Columbia offer retail choice programs the let consumers buy power from competitive retail suppliers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Falling prices for solar and wind are making those offerings more attractive.

Drift said its software lets it reduce administrative and billing costs that typically flow through to utility customers. Customers pay weekly and have an option to get all of their power from emission-free sources.

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