by Martha Walden for 350 Humboldt
Some friends of mine have a curious custom. A few times a month, usually in the evening, they turn off the power to their house. Everything goes dark and quiet. They break out two small solar lamps and read for the next hour. When I found out about this, I assumed that it was a ritual they’d devised as a conscious effort to step outside the energy addiction of our modern lives. My admiration did not dim when I found out that they actually get paid for the electricity they don’t use during that hour.
You too could get paid for not using electricity. You wouldn’t have to turn off your whole house — maybe just turn off the electronics and a few lights. But the more you reduce your typical usage for that assigned hour, the more money you make through a program called OhmConnect.
The challenge faced by utilities and grid operators is to furnish extra energy during times of peak power usage. Typically, peaker power plants are fired up to dispatch enough energy for everybody. Unfortunately, they produce the most carbon-intensive energy and the most expensive energy. So expensive, in fact, that utilities are willing to pay people to not use energy in order to minimize the need for peaker power.
You get thousands of people cutting back on their consumption by even just a little, and it really adds up. The reductions are bundled and sold back to the grid. From the point of view of the utilities, energy not used is as good as energy produced. The significant financial savings are passed from the utilities through OhmConnect to the participants.
OhmConnect is an updated version of the “demand response” strategy devised by utilities decades ago. Typically, it was factories and other commercial buildings that agreed to reduce their electricity load when notified by the utility that a grid overload was about to occur.
This more modern version is made possible by smart meters. That’s why OhmConnect is available only to consumers who live in places where smart meter data is easily accessible: California, Texas(!), Toronto. Communication tools such as email or texting are also necessary. If you sign up for OhmConnect, you will receive a notification via text or email inviting you to reduce your usage during a certain hour. Your targeted reduction is based on the average amount of electricity you usually use during that time span. The price of the energy you save varies according to time and location, so earnings vary as well. ($100 to $300 per month is average.)
You can find out more about how it works at ohmconnect.com. You receive a $10 bonus just by signing up. Also, if you refer someone, you get a $20 bonus. So if you decide to sign up, and you’d like to support 350 Humboldt’s climate activism, you can give OhmConnect this link: https://ohm.co/dwchandl and that will get the bonus to us.