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Smart Grid

Ten Half-Decent Free Energy Apps

We all love an app but are there any good energy apps? In truth, not many. There are some very good energy news and commodity price apps from the likes of Platts, Argus etc., but they require (expensive) subscriptions.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of ten energy apps available from Apple’s App Store. Some are useful, some are fun. But all are free (except one, which costs £1.49).

This list does not include proprietary apps of energy supply companies for their consumers, which range from the beautiful, like that of First Utility, multi-functional, like British Gas, and drab, like EDF and E.ON.

 

IMG_0274GridCarbon

Want to know how much wind power is on the system? Want to be surprised by how much coal power we still generate?

Developed by the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, GridCarbon provides real-time, source-by-source power generation info, as well as the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when one unit (1 kWh) of electricity is used by a consumer.

GridCarbon uses up-to-date generation data from (Balancing and Settlement Code Company) ELEXON to provide a summary of the generation mix data broken down into gas (CCGT + OCGT), coal nuclear, wind, non-pumped storage hydro etc. etc. This data is converted into a carbon intensity value by weighting the proportions from each generation type and adjusted for losses in transmission and distribution.

Simple, but elegant.

IMG_0282BlackGold

Want to know how much the price of oil has plummeted today? Most useful commodity price apps require a subscription but BlackGold lists, on one page, up-to-date US and Brent crude oil prices, as well as US natural gas prices.

Incidentally, if anyone can point me to a free app which details UK natural gas prices (NBP), please leave a comment.

IMG_0273Need for Grid

A time-killer this one, and surprisingly good. Developed by France’s equivalent of the National Grid, RTE, the aim of this game is to build high-voltage networks and connect power generation sources like nuclear power plants and wind farms with demand centres.

Part of the game is to play the role of Sustainable Development Manager. Bribe Donate to the local community! Appease environmentalists! Re-route due to a species of rare toad! (Really).

Perhaps unusually for money-printing grid companies, there is a budget. Spend too much and you’ll fail to complete the grid, meaning no excessive profits that year (!)

Settings can be changed to English. Quite absorbing, actually. Also available to play online here

IMG_0280Snapt

This app is Compare The Market’s attempt to take all the ‘effort’ out of switching energy suppliers.

All you have to do is open the app, take a photo of your energy bill with your mobile device and submit. Compare the Market’s team will come back to you within ten minutes with a range of suitable tariffs. Simples!

The app works for single or dual fuel tariffs, and if you don’t have a paper bill, you can take snaps of your digital bill. Needless to say, there is no obligation to switch.

IMG_02794C Offshore Wind

4C Offshore is a British publisher of offshore wind reports and data. It has also produced a nifty little news app which is serves a handy feed for offshore wind stories.

There are some (but not many) news feed apps dedicated to a specific power generation source, but this is the best.  More like this, please.

meter readings app

Meter Readings (£1.49)

This one was Apple’s iPad App of the Week in March 2011 and while is not a free app, at £1.49 this is good value.

I’m sceptical when a mere energy consumption monitoring apps is promoted as a magical money-saving device. But undoubtedly this is a useful tool to better understand domestic energy usage, which in turn allows for more accurate information when switching and to see if that monthly direct debit increase is justified.

The idea is to enter meter readings, be it gas, electricity or water, on a regular basis – once a week is sufficient for most.  Of course, the data will only be as good as the inputs and to get the most out of it, like calculating savings, requires a level of detailed information about tariffs (unit costs).

Over time it will build up a picture of your energy consumption, and you’ll be able to compare usage with previous weeks, months, quarters, years.

If nothing else, regular meter reading will make users more conscious about their energy consumption, perhaps encouraging consumers to ‘beat’ last week etc.  The downside is, for me, the need to contort myself rummaging around in the cupboard under the stairs to read the meters!

IMG_0276Beirut Electricity

Beirut Electricity is aimed, as the name suggests, at electricity consumers living in the Lebanese capital, where there are blackouts for three hours every day between 6am and 6pm.

This app tracks rolling three-hour outages and alerts users as to when the power will be off weeks in advance. Handy for when the good folk of Beirut wish to set the PVR to record the dubbed version of Downton Abbey, no doubt.

The calculated cut-off times come with the caveat that it is assumed the outages are respected by state power firm Electricite Du Liban.

Next time you read those sensational stories about ‘Blackout Britain’, remember there are people much, much worse off than you!

IMG_0278National Grid

Unless you live in New York State, Rhode Island or Massachusetts, this is little more than useless.  But this powerful app shows what can be done in giving power consumers real-time information on their mobile devices about power outages, county by county, area by area, and what is being done to fix them. It also allows consumers to report outages in seconds.

Will the likes of UK Power Networks, Western Power Distribution or Northern Powergrid follow suit and develop an app to report and monitor power outages? They haven’t yet….

IMG_0281Skeptical Science

Are you a climate change professional? Fed up of questions like ‘If climate change is real then why is it so bloody cold outside?’ Then download this app!

Skeptical Science offers a comprehensive list of ready-made replies to climate sceptics, including the ‘Top Ten Most Used Arguments’.  Passionate.

IMG_0275Pricemonitor

Strictly speaking, you need to be an employee of Leipzig natural gas company Verbundnetz Gas Aktiengesellschaft to make the most of this app (click ‘Continue’ when prompted with a log-in), but don’t worry it is still useful. And you don’t require any German to use it.

Well laid out and simple to use, this app is a handy energy calculator when you need to convert kilowatt-hours to tonnes of oil equivalent, cubic feet to cubic metres and so on.

Drag the value either to the left or right of the ‘=’ sign and, hey presto, you can make complicated energy conversions at the stroke of a finger. Wunderbar.

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About timprobert

Journalist & Owner, Millicent Media

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