You know what’s better than helping the environment? Getting paid for it. 500 Startups-backed Ohmconnect has built a Web tool that interfaces with products like the Nest, Tesla Model S and Belkin’s WeMo smart home line to earn you money by dialing back energy usage during peak hours.
Not all energy is created equal. Power grids are optimized to produce just enough of the cleanest energy possible, which means they fall back on dirty power during high-demand times. Ohmconnect monitors the status of these so-called “peaker plants” and then sends you and supported devices notifications to reduce your usage.The energy you save can then be sold back onto the market, thereby earning you a bit of cash.
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Ohmconnect co-founder Curtis Tongue estimates that you can earn $100-$130 a year using the platform, or roughly 5-10 percent of your annual utility bill. Those aren’t huge earnings, but you’ll also enjoy reduced energy costs since peak times have the most expensive rates. And, of course, you’ll be helping out Mother Earth.
While it may seem odd to get paid for using less electricity, the scheme arises out of US regulations that mandate compensation for creating extra capacity at the same wholesale rate as energy generation.
For now, Ohmconnect is focused on the California market. To get started, you’ll need to login to the service and then connect it with your online utility account. You’ll also need a smart meter at your house, but California boasts 95 percent penetration for the new standard, so chance are you’re eligible.
Ohmconnect’s Web dashboard lets you track your usage and the money you’ve earned. You can also see how your consumption stacks up against your neighbor. When you’re ready to get paid, link up your PayPal account and Ohmconnect will send the money over every month.
The startup employs an economic “demand response model” for tracking when to cut back on usage, but it adjusts in real-time instead of just a few times a year like some organizations.
As more connected products enter our homes, Ohmconnect’s reach will only get broader. There’s no guarantee that the government will keep these incentive programs around, but Ohmconnect makes a strong contribution even if it’s just focused on cutting your energy bill and helping you be more environmentally responsible. Earning a little bit of pocket money along the way is just an added bonus.