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Startup emerges with plans to assemble an army of electric appliances into a virtual power plant

a electrician at work
Image Credit: Wix
  • On September 6, Onsemble a new startup, emerged from stealth mode with $3 million in seed funding and an app that streamlines the home electrification process.

  • Currently, despite the laundry list of rebates and tax incentives for going electric in the Inflation Reduction Act, switching to electric laundry machines, dryers, heaters, ovens, and more is a strenuous process for many Americans.

  • That’s why the team behind Onsemble, which includes a Google vet and a former cybersecurity exec, created an app that recommends upgrades, schedules installations, and combines incentives to lower up-front costs.

  • 20% of American greenhouse gas emissions come from homes. The switch to electric both lowers emissions and, with the IRA, enables homeowners to earn revenue from the switch.

  • Onsemble adds these appliances to an ensemble of energy resources, creating a “virtual power plant” that can shift energy during peak hours, a tool more and more necessary as power outages coincide with extreme weather events.

As Julia Yrani and Rick Klau, co-founders of a new startup named Onsemble, put it, the solutions to climate change are “simple,” one of them being home electrification, a necessary step when 20% of American greenhouse gas emissions come from homes. However, “the process today is anything but,” the two wrote in a letter. “Replacing your appliances today means calling contractor after contractor, navigating the maze of tax breaks and rebates, and maneuvering painful permitting processes.”

That’s the problem Onsemble, a startup with an AI-enabled mobile app, is attempting to solve. The app takes out the middlemen in the electrification process, recommending upgrades, scheduling installation, combining incentives to lower up-front costs, and enabling homeowners to earn revenue by shifting consumption, the company says.

Earlier this month Onsemble emerged from stealth mode with $3 million in seed funding. The round was co-led by Union Labs and Third Sphere, with participation from John Doerr, K9 Ventures, Cleo Capital, and Incite.

With its launch, the company hopes it will help accelerate the country’s transition to electric appliances, which according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), is not only essential to reaching net zero but is needed to maximize home efficiency.

As Onsemble highlights, these appliances’ flexibility also allows for grid flexibility, which as the Department of Energy (DOE) shows, is another key component to addressing climate change to both lower emissions and keep grids stable during moments of extreme weather.

According to the IEA, more efforts are needed on the home electrification front if we are to plateau current use by 2030 (which increased in 2022) and decarbonize by 2050.

If the urgency of the climate crisis wasn’t enough, power outages from extreme weather have doubled over the past two decades across the country, highlighting both the aging grid and the need for more resilient infrastructure, and the ways lower-income and climate-vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by prolonged and abnormally frequent outages.

But if the devices can be more easily electrified and folded into Onsemble’s virtual power plant — an aggregation of distributed energy resources, which is coordinated by grid operators — energy use can be shifted during peak hours, which research by the DOE shows helps lower the likelihood, frequency, and length of outages. Aside from the energy resiliency benefits, the DOE also outlines the ways virtual power plants increase affordability.

“Once electrified, these connected home appliances hold huge potential to facilitate a more reliable and efficient electric grid – this is critical during a time when the climate crisis is already pushing it to its limits,” Yrani, the President of Onsemble and a former cybersecurity executive, said in a statement.

“The Onsemble platform enables homeowners to contribute to a clean energy future and earn money in the process,” she added.

A key driver in the push for electrification on the consumer side is the litany of incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act. As the electrification nonprofit Rewiring America calculates, by switching to electric versions of ovens, washers, dryers, heaters, and so on, the average American household can save an average of $1,800 per year on their energy bills, by way of electrification rebates, energy rebates, and tax credits.

Altogether, the nonprofit’s metrics show that there is $858 billion in electrification benefits and annual benefits, however, Onsemble’s app underscores the difficulty in access.

“Electrifying homes is essential to meeting our climate goals, and the Inflation Reduction Act’s homeowner incentives present a once-in-a-generation opportunity for mass adoption of the technology – but the current consumer experience is fundamentally broken," Klau, who is the CEO of the startup and a former partner with Google Ventures and California’s former chief technology innovation officer, said in a statement.

"We remove the friction from going electric,” he added.

The app will launch in select markets this October. As the publication Axios reports, they are beginning the rollout in three counties in Northern California. According to the startup, the team is taking the app nationwide in 2024 to coincide with the availability of Inflation Reduction Act rebates and incentives. By 2027, the company aims to electrify one million homes.

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