From writer Rachel Signer and our friends at Collectively:
Maybe you've heard of smart homes, where devices and appliances are connected so they can "talk" to each other. Well, they're getting smarter, and greener.
Imagine: it's around 6pm, and people are arriving home from work. Everybody turns on their lights, stoves, and heating or air conditioning all at once, placing demand on the grid. To cope, there are power plants that only turn on during these peak times, known as peaker plants. Turning on these additional power plants can increase the cost of energy from $40 to $1,000 per Megawatt Hour.
What if, two 30-year-old guys, Curtis Tongue and Matt Dousterberg wondered, you could offset the grid so that those peaker plants didn't need to be turned on? They knew there were people out there who, like them, wanted to conserve energy in every way possible. The electric car-driving, smart house crowd. And those people were looking for ways to take their green lifestyles even further.
The pair created Ohmconnect, a platform that allows you to turn off or reduce your energy usage during peak hours, and then either receive cash in exchange for the energy you save, or have the equivalent amount donated to a cause.
Here's how it works: the site shows you where your home's energy comes from, and how your home consumes energy.
Then, during those peak hours when the inefficient plants are getting turned on, they alert you, so you have the option to reduce your energy usage. If it's all linked, as in a smart home, they can turn off all of your appliances, and even have your car stop charging. You can also choose to have the reduction occur automatically, through Nest, Tesla, Leaf, or Belkin devices.
If enough people do this, the peak plant might not turn on at all. Either way, the reduction is offsetting the grid enough that Ohmconnect actually receives money from the utilities. You could think of their platform as a virtual power plant that produces negative energy.
Ohmconnect users can choose to get cash back, which could add up to as much as $150 per year, or they could have that money directed toward any cause listed on the website. Any user can add a cause, and it's fairly unrestricted in terms of what it can be. This wasn't an original feature of the website, but the founders noticed that a bunch of users in one area had used the same e-mail address to receive the cash back, and they realized that this group had banded together to have the funds sent to an elementary school that was trying to raise money to buy chromebooks.
Launched in late 2013, Ohmconnect now has around 4,000 users (only in California). It's financed by taking a 20 percent commission on the cash that's re-routed into the grid, so it's 80 percent of what's saved that either goes back to users or donations.
An Ohmconnect home, in other words, is pretty damn smart. And smart pays.
Originally published at Collectively, SHFT's content partner.
Photo credits: whygreeneconomy.org, Ohmconnect