My kids, hard at work saving the world

When it got hot this summer, my kids earned $42.39 each for sitting outside with a book. They also, believe it or not, helped make a small but important dent in the climate crisis.

Here in California, when the sun sets on a hot day, all the solar energy resources we’ve built around the State stop generating power – at pretty much the exact same time – right as people are arriving home from work and turning on their air conditioners, dishwashers, and laundry machines. This sudden peak in energy use is at the same time solar goes offline, requiring grid managers and utilities to turn on old, expensive, and polluting fossil fuel power plants to meet the demand. Not only is it expensive to deal with a demand spike this way, it also pumps harmful greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.

A company called OhmConnect had a better idea: What if, instead of firing up fossil fuel power plants, we paid people a similar amount to reduce their energy use during these expensive peaks? I thought it was such a good idea, I turned in my investor hat and joined OhmConnect as their new CEO.

OhmConnect, operates like a “virtual” power plant, but instead of generating electricity, it reduces the demand for power by paying individuals and families like mine to reduce their energy use.

So far this summer, my family has earned $169.56 by powering down a couple of hours a week. That’s all: just a couple of hours. I split the savings with my boys… hence the $42.39 they each earned by turning off unneeded lights, not watching TV, and keeping the fridge door closed. I’ve never seen them so willing to read a book before!

This kind of action is traditionally called “demand response” by utility companies, but OhmConnect has taken it far beyond traditional energy-saving utility programs. To understand the scale of OhmConnect, you need to multiply my family’s experience by half a million. 

Over 500,000 people across California have signed up for OhmConnect, and the results are remarkable. Those OhmConnect households are now working together to effectively replace five fossil fuel power plants by giving up to 150 megawatts of peak power back into the grid when it needs it the most.

At the same time, OhmConnect has paid those California families over $9 million to reduce their energy during peak periods. That’s $9 million going towards things like groceries and school supplies rather than dirty energy. It’s a true win-win. It’s also absolutely essential if we are going to meet the goal of a carbon-free electrical grid. Quite simply, there is no way to have 100% renewable power if we can’t shift demand to avoid these huge evening peak loads. 

For us to decarbonize our power, I believe we need to continue to follow the trail OhmConnect has blazed and make it so a kilowatt saved is also a penny (or more) earned everywhere in the U.S.

The remarkable OhmConnect team, led by Matt and Cadir, has proven that California families, working together, can make a huge difference. Now, we are gearing up to expand across the country. 

You can join by clicking here.