On Solarpunk #7
A new original Solarpunk short story: Sid from Decentralized Electrification Technologies performs an audit.
Today, I’m sharing an original near-future short story that’s loosely Solarpunk. These short stories are a lot of fun to write (see my last original short story here), so I hope to write more vignettes from Sid and Mike’s world. If you enjoy reading them, enter your email address below to be emailed each new entry!
I finally see the house number and turn quickly into the gravel driveway. I know I've passed this house many times, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.
The house is notably generic. There’s a small front porch, screen door, still-mostly-white siding, and a satellite dish propped on the roof. A few bushy flower patches sit in the yard with a trampoline that looks under-played and slightly rusty. The place doesn’t have the charm of the farmhouses that are popular around here.
I park my e-truck and get out.
"Decentralized Electrification Technologies."
Is the name too tacky? Isabel had picked it and printed the decal for the e-truck before I had a chance to say my bit. She read that people respond to audits better when they think you're working for a legit corporation. We’re just a two-person operation, but you “have to fake it ‘til you make it,” she says.
I’m wearing the uniform she made for me. It’s a dark blue polo with a yellow DET on the left chest. The "E" is shaped like a lightning bolt…for electricity. We’d just pooled enough BOT to start performing audits and want to do it right. The e-truck belongs to Isabel’s parents, but the BOT auditing rewards will be ours.
I climb onto the porch and knock on the screen door frame. I stop myself from looking inside. I’m supposed to check their heating system, nothing more.
I hear a chair move and a man appears behind the screen door.
"What can I do for you?" He’s opened the screen door a bit, just enough to talk through.
"Hi there, my name is Sid. I'm an auditor for Decentralized Electrification Technologies. I think we had scheduled an appointment for 3pm today."
"It’s just you?"
“All right, come on in. I’m Mike.”
I step inside the house and Mike lets the screen door swing shut behind me. He’s clearly skeptical, but that’s warranted. A stranger from the internet just showed up to inspect his home.
"So how does this work?"
"Well, it's pretty easy.” I try to smile and look reassuring, but Isabel is usually better at this part. "I just need to verify the work that’s been done."
I glance down at my phone to check the house's BOT claim.
"It looks like you replaced an oil furnace with an air-source heat pump."
"Yeah, they lugged away the furnace yesterday. So how do you verify that?” He looks at the DET logo on my shirt as he speaks, so I’m not sure if he’s asking or poking fun at me.
"I just need to see the new heat pump, make sure it’s hooked up, and confirm the oil system is gone."
"All right, new pump’s outside."
He walks through the kitchen and out the back door. I follow him, though slowly, so I have a few seconds to look around. The house is sparse, except for a big basket of seemingly-just-harvested greens sitting on the kitchen counter.
Beyond their BOT claim, I don’t know anything about Mike or this house—just that it was in our audit radius. The house address wasn’t even shared with us until the audit request was accepted.
I exit through the same door Mike did and am surprised at how lush the backyard is. There are at least ten trees laden with different colors of fruits and two big garden beds. There’s a dirt path winding through the beds and trees to a greenhouse. It’s all out of sight of the road.
Mike points to a white box with a fan that's sitting along the back edge of the house. It has a bright yellow and black stripe across its body, just like the unit from the last audit I did. Some thick tubing is plugged into the back of the box and runs into the wall behind it.
"Great, I'm going to take a photo and record the unit number," I say.
"It's one of the Appalachian ones," he announces, a twinge of pride suddenly in his voice. "My HVAC buddy told me they're even more efficient than the Japanese models."
"Yeah, they seem to be the best. I audited another AI installation, and the owner said her energy bill is already a quarter of what it was before the switch. And she was switching from gas!"
The pride leaves his face briefly, then returns as he looks at the machine.
"So there are a lot of people doing this kind of thing?"
"Seems like it. We're all booked for audits the rest of the week." I don’t tell him this is only my third audit. I like the way he's asking me questions.
I snap a wide-angle picture of the heat pump, then zoom in on the factory label to get a picture of that too.
Made in West Virginia
September 12, 2026
"It's crazy how much they're paying for the switch—more than covers the installation costs. Someone must really want us to get these heat pumps!" He's loosening up a bit.
"Who do you think is really behind it? The government?” He says “government” with a disenchanted sneer.
“I don’t know, maybe. I mean it’s supposed to be from the future.” I wonder how much of my own theories I should share with Mike.
“I think it’s like Bitcoin. No one knows who Satoshi Nakomoto is—or was! But people still use it a lot.”
Mentioning Satoshi doesn’t seem to help. Mike’s clearly unsatisfied. But to his credit, it’s all sort of unbelievable.
One day, a new digital currency just appeared, supposedly created by representatives of the biosphere from the future. The group called themselves The Biosphere and referred to their currency as BOT (Biosphere Operating Tokens). They said that in the future, The Biosphere is responsible for the Earth’s climate and they had returned to our time to try to prevent catastrophe. So they started offering rewards in BOT for eliminating fossil fuel emissions.
I only heard about all of this a couple months ago from Isabel. Her cousin, Josh, had been making money doing audits. Anyone could help The Biosphere validate the claims people made and get a bit of BOT in exchange. Josh would find homeowners who were already taking steps to electrify, convince them to submit a claim, and do an audit. He called it BOT harvesting. But that was before the price of BOT started to rise.
Now, it’s a frenzy. It seems like everyone is trying to get in on the action and claim their money from the future. I wish Isabel and I had started earlier.
Mike’s heat pump looks good, so I decide to get back to the audit.
"Can you show me where the oil furnace used to be? I just need to confirm the house is only heated using electricity now."
Mike nods and opens up a storm door a few paces away. He climbs down the steps and flips on a light switch. I follow.
Downstairs is nearly empty. There's a hot water heater and some wiring, but it's clear that most of the space was meant for the furnace and oil tank.
"Furnace used to be right here." He points to a darkened spot on the concrete floor. I snap a photo for my records.
"All right, looks good. You don’t have any other heating systems?"
"Nope, nothing left to vandalize," he says with an awkward twinkle. He’s not good at sarcasm, but I know he's referencing the news stories of furnaces being secretly disconnected at odd hours.
I give him a quick smile and hope that’s enough for him. You never know how people are going to react to eco-sabotage, so I try to avoid the topic.
I've done some research into the tampering reports. Only fossil fuel-emitting heating systems have been messed with, and it's only happened on nights where the temperature is above freezing. An inconvenience and maybe an embarrassment, not much more.
Mike and I climb out of the cellar and he closes the storm doors. I’m again facing his backyard orchard.
“I don’t know what you’re planning on doing with the BOT you’ll get from this, but maybe hold on to some of it. Those tokens aren’t just money—they also give you voting rights.” It’s not my place to advise him on what to do with his money. And if he’s like most people around here, he stopped participating in traditional elections a long time ago. But he decides to humor me.
“Voting on what?”
“Well by being a BOT holder, you’re sort of like a citizen of The Biosphere and you get to decide what it funds and rewards.” I know he’s going to receive all sorts of materials as soon as his BOT claim is approved. I should just wait and let him read those.
“And every month there are activism BOT grants—you can vote on who you think deserves those too.”
After his sabotage comment, I won’t mention that a hacker collective was one of the grant recipients last cycle or that The Biosphere is now far and away the largest funder of geoengineering research. He can find all that out later.
“All right, I’ll consider it.” He seems to mean it. Maybe I wasn’t overstepping.
“Anything else you need for your audit?”
“No, I think that’s it.”
He walks me back around the house, and we say goodbye.
“Thanks for letting me inspect the work.” I remember I’m representing Decentralized Electrification Technologies. “We’ll submit our vote in your favor, and you should get the BOT issuance and further instructions on Wednesday. That’s when the challenge period ends.”
“Thank you. I appreciate you stopping by.”
I nod and smile as I climb back in the e-truck. It feels good to earn some BOT for the visit. And I’m glad Mike’s going to be part of The Biosphere.
This was excellent, really nice world-building in a short story! Love it