On the hierarchy of needs, being a Nest user has not been a priority. I have other fish to fry. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to look more useful since I installed the OhmConnect app because I can make money using it.

OhmConnect is designed to work with the grid and our smart meters. It lets residents intelligently choose how much peak time energy they use. An innovation that nudges us toward energy-efficiency. Sexy, right?

You know when an old idea that was good is blended with something new and the results are surprisingly ill-conceived? (Thinking of the Hamdogger, the hot dog shaped hamburger.) Ohm Connect has done the opposite by turning your electricity bill, a dead-boring thing into a level-up challenge.

The platform has made a game out of using the grid. Similar to video game design, OhmConnect created elements of its interface that keep members coming back, rewarding them for continuous engagement. Though unlike a video game, you start by unplugging from your devices.

I authorized the platform access to my smart meter and made the data available for analysis in 15-minute intervals. OhmConnect monitored the meter and analyzed the power usage to make a forecast.

I am now among only 8% of households that know about access to hourly or daily smart meter data simply by opening my account. Of the 150 million electricity customers in the United States, nearly half have smart meters. That’s a lot of users who don’t know they can make more informed choices about how they use the grid.

Right off the bat, it grabs me by the dopamine receptors. My usual habit after I download an app or subscribe to a newsletter is to forget about it.

But this time when I see a message with the subject line “You Went Over Your Forecast,” I am hooked.

Uh-oh. Did I do something wrong? The Girl Scout in me is compelled to read the rest of the email:

“Unfortunately, your usage was above your forecast for the #OhmHour…Check out our blog for some tips on how to beat your #OhmHour forecast.”

Now I’ve taken the bait “to beat my forecast.” I’m impressed at how sticky this is. After kicking the tires on the app, the obvious tactic for increasing my cash is to make my household usage a more remotely operated, automated process.

Energy Aggregators

To understand more about how to do this, I turn to the platform discussion groups, host to a lively community of energy aggregator nerds with strong opinions where their utility usage is concerned.

About 19% of these users set up their accounts to automate how they respond to OhmHour requests. This type of user opens access to their Nest thermostat to turn down the temperature slightly at the given hour, or they set their home charging station not to power up during the allotted period.

Streaks!

Like these other users, If I pay attention and reduce my use of the grid at certain designated times (OhmHours), I can get paid up to $100-$300; this time next year after figuring out my streaks, I’ll have a better picture of my average income.

With Snapchat streaks you get vaporous social cachet. OhmConnect streaks get you paid. A “streak“ is a row of successful off-peak energy hours that reduce overall consumption. The longer my streak, the larger the bonus I receive on my next payment of #OhmHour cash.

20% of the utility pay-out for energy savings goes to OhmConnect. The rest is mine and can be converted to either cash deposits to my PayPal account, donations made to a charity, or credits towards energy-efficient products like a Nest thermometer. (See how I did that?)

The Big Picture in Demand Response

This startup is part of a growing demand response marketplace, one that is projected to be worth 35.9 billion by 2025.

Its inception is the Demand Response Auction Mechanism (or the DRAM) to test the statewide demand response market. A California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Resolution, “E-4187” authorizes the pilot program for the years 2018–2019.

DRAM has its roots in the last CA energy crisis 20 years ago, says John Anderson an OhmConnect policy and market expert who has been following the pilot and its proposed next steps.

“There were not enough power plants available to the market in 2001,” says Anderson. “So in the wake of that, one of the things the state with the Public Utilities Commission did was establish a resource adequacy program that made it so that the utility companies (SCE, PG&E, and San Diego Gas & Electric) had to show that they had a reliability margin and could meet needs.”

Stay tuned for the CPUC’s formal vote in June 2018. If it’s a go, demand response programs like this one will become a permanent part of the state’s energy policy; bring on the multi-billions.