The Sierra Club and OhmConnect announced a partnership on February 16 that offers energy customers in several parts of California the opportunity to join a six-month pilot project under which, “[participants will] receive the payments they are entitled to when they save energy at specific times.”
What’s more, they can choose to directly donate a part of those peak energy savings to the Sierra Club – a grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.4 million members nationwide.
All of this is possible because, in 2013, San Francisco-based OhmConnect claims to have launched world’s first application that empowers consumers to sell electricity back to the grid, without the need for solar panels or additional hardware. The company says it works directly with the energy markets to balance the grid by automatically adjusting thermostats, electric cars, smart plugs, and similar equipment.
“Best yet,” the company states, “the [utilities] pay OhmConnect for this service and we pass those dollars on to [customers].” Anyone who uses any of the three major California energy suppliers –Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), or Southern California Edison (SCE) – can sign up for free.
The Sierra Club-OhmConnect program is similar to the existing Golden State initiative, Flex Alert, under which customers are asked to reduce their energy use when the energy grid is at risk of turning on the worst-polluting power plants to satisfy demand. However, under this new plan, energy customers can receive payments for their participation.
“In an effort to educate customers and deliver the compensation that individuals are entitled to when they reduce their energy use,” the Sierra Club has partnered with OhmConnect to pilot its free energy-reduction service, beginning with a half-year initiative in several regions of California – among them, the Greater Bay Area (serviced by PG&E), Los Angeles and Orange Counties (serviced by SCE), and San Diego (serviced by SDG&E).
To date, OhmConnect reports that its own energy reduction events, known as #OhmHours, have gained popularity across the Bay Area and Southern California as communities have sought effective methods to reduce local pollution and easily provide a way to receive the energy reimbursements to which they are entitled.
Now, when Sierra Club supporters participate in #OhmHours, a portion of their earnings will be donated directly to the advocacy organization, according to Sierra Club Chief of Staff Jesse Simons, who explains, “This program provides an opportunity for any Sierra Club supporter in these regions of California who pays a utility bill to help pave the way to a clean energy future for California through simple energy reductions, and to help support the organization’s advocacy for clean air, clean water, and transitioning to a 100 percent renewable-powered future.”
Recent energy policy developments, such as FERC Order 745, have enabled this type of innovative program. Under these policies, residential energy customers can reduce their energy use and have those reductions sold into California’s electricity market, the California ISO, at wholesale prices.
“Not only are we helping Sierra Club members do their part to combat climate change, but by offering them free and easy tools to help reduce their collective carbon footprint, we’re able to also help drive donations to an organization dedicated to moving the country toward 100 percent renewable energy and preserving and protecting our environment,” stated Curtis Tongue, cofounder of OhmConnect.