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Turning Energy Savings Into Cash

By Bill Moore

Turning off your electric appliances or unplugging your electric car for an hour at the right times of the day can earn your cold cash. That's the concept behind Ohmconnect, an 18-month old California startup.

Matt Duesterberg and Curtis Tongue may be the new "smartest guys in the room." But unlike their greedy predecessors at Enron, they are using California's deregulated electric power market to help reduce air pollution, while generating revenue for their six-member startup and cold, hard cash for participants in Ohmconnect.

The concept behind Ohmconnect, which evolved out of a Silicon Valley 'hackathon' about two year ago, is fairly simple. When demand for electric power on California's grid exceeds base load, energy providers fire up their peaking generators, and for a brief period of time the cost of a megawatt hour of electricity goes from the usual $30-40 to as much as $1000. Often these generators are powered by huge ICE-age motors burning dirty diesel fuel, many of them located near urban centers, adding to the state's already serious air pollution problem.

If you could create a network of small power users, typically homeowners who would be willing, when notified, to voluntarily reduce their electricity use, you could actually sell that capability in the power market. You'd save grid operators from having to spend that $1000/Mh and you'd keep those dirty peaking plants from firing up.

That's how Ohmconnect began with SMS text messages and emails to network members who would manually turn off air conditioners, clothes driers, unused electronics, and in the case of EV owners, unplug their cars. They'd only have to it for one hour at a time, but that would be enough to earn them anywhere from $50-150 annually. EV owners might net even more.

Initially started as a 'social experiment', the Ohmconnect team has steadily automated the system with customers allowing them to wirelessly control their Nest thermostats and electric car charging stations. Because peak demand can come as all hours of the day or night, being able to control customer usage automatically makes Ohmconnect even more valuable.

In this two-part interview, Curtis Tongue, Ohmconnect's co-founder and CMO, relates the story of how the concept came about and, more importantly, how their approach puts real, cold cash into the pockets of their customers, not just 'saving' them money, which are two distinctly different things.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Photo credit: iQ by Intel

Times Article Viewed: 8007
Originally published: 15 Oct 2015

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