It’s one thing to watch pollutants billow out from smokestacks, but it’s quite another to know exactly how much carbon dioxide is being injected into the atmosphere. Realtime Carbon, a website developed by Demand Logic, DynamicDemand, and AMEE, is doing its part to raise awareness of power plant pollution by displaying the carbon footprint of a unit of power in the UK over time. In other words, the site figures out how much electricity is being produced by coal, wind, solar, etc. (the “generation mix”) at any given moment and calculates its overall green-ness.
It’s a fun tool to show people why they should use less power in general, but it’s useful for other reasons, too. Realtime Carbon could be used by homeowners to calculate when they should perform power-intensive activities like running the washing machine or dryer based on when electricity is at its greenest. And the site’s XML webfeed of data might be used by manufacturers to make appliances that limit emissions by only using power when the generation mix is low in CO2. If a dishwasher, for example, is set to run in the middle of the night when the generation mix is favorable, CO2 emissions could be cut by up to 40%.
Realtime Carbon’s generation mix calculations are still rough–they’re based on how many gigawatts of coal, hydro, solar, wind, etc. are feeding into the grid at a time–and the next step is to calculate the efficiency of individual power stations, since two stations using the same fuel mix can have different emissions if one is more efficient than the other. The next step after that is exporting the Realtime Carbon concept to the United States and beyond. Because until most of our electricity is derived from renewable sources, picking the greenest times to use power is the easiest thing we can do to cut emissions.