A wonderful write up from Amy, be sure to check it out here!
Electrons may be tiny, but they’re big business: The $375 billion US energy market exists in order to generate the electrons that provide 321 million Americans with the power that fuels our modern lives.
Yet not all electrons are created equally. Power is power, but a kilowatt hour of electricity generated by burning coal has an entirely different environmental impact than the same amount generated from wind or solar. So private power companies are increasingly letting their customers choose where their electrons come from –and betting that if consumers and businesses have a choice between buying traditional or clean power, they’ll choose the green alternative.
“Ten years ago no one knew where their food came from,” says Dan Keyes, a Solar Development Analyst at NRG, a supplier of renewable energy. “Now we see local foods popping up at grocery stores. Farm to table is all the rage. Few people realize that they can do the same with power.”
I didn’t realize it –at least, not until I spent a few hours playing The Path to Luma, a gorgeous new puzzle game created by an interdisciplinary team of clean energy specialists at NRG, in partnership with Chicago-based studio Phosphor Games.
A free mobile game released Aug 13 for iPhone and Android, Path to Luma has already been downloaded over 1.5 million times. Players control a “Sustainability Augmentation Model” robot, called SAM for short, and are tasked with a mission to save a series of worlds that have been left in ruin by the Chroma civilization. The Chroma tapped their resources past the brink of collapse in order to fuel their intergalactic expansion, and the few remaining Chromites have little time remaining before they can no longer survive.
SAM quests through 20 worlds, saving the species by using clean tech to power remaining outposts, and reverting environmental damage caused by the overuse of archaic mechanisms of energy generation. Users beat each level by figuring out how to deliver and activate various types of nature-friendly electricity generation in combination and sequence. As each mechanism is activated, it transforms barren wastelands into thriving ecosystems in a pleasant pirouette of pixels.
It’s a lovely game, reminiscent of the award-winning game Monument Valley, with a delightful low-poly aesthetic and splendid sound design. Tools such as solar spears blossom like flowers as you spin worlds with the swing of a finger. It’s clever and short, with about 3 hours of total gameplay, and plenty of easter eggs to find if you tap around.
Path to Luma also has a curious side effect: It makes you think about how clean energy technologies could provide for humankind’s future energy demands. But the game doesn’t have ads, doesn’t remind the player who funded it, and doesn’t try to sell them any product or service. Members of the NRG team say they just want players to know they can choose where their power comes from.
“A consumer can (and should, in my opinion) call whoever supplies their electricity to ask where it comes from and if they can get renewable energy,” says Katie Ryan, a senior sustainability manager at NRG. “If you live in a place with choice (known as a competitive or deregulated market), there should be many options for price, renewable energy, length of contract, etc., from various electricity suppliers. If you live in a place without choice (known as a regulated market) the poles and wires company (utility) also supplies their electricity. Some have green choice programs.”
As customers demand that energy suppliers provide clean alternatives, limited options are expanding into a wealth of green power choices. Markets are already moving, with many of the world’s largest corporations pledging emissions reductions and new investments in clean tech. It’s a movement worth supporting. As we see in both the real world and The Path to Luma, our small choices can bring big change.