Ohm App San Francisco Energy Use Image: OhmConnect

For those Californians who have trouble turning off the lights when not in a room, here’s an app with some monetary get-up-and-go.

The San Francisco start-up OhmConnect is a free service app which sends a text notifying you when your area is using energy from what the app creators view as unsustainable power plants. The app won first prize for Best “Killer Idea” for an Energy-Focused Application or Service during the American Energy Data Challenge, hosted by the US Department of Energy.

Turn off an extra light or two, wait to turn on the dishwasher and ditch the blow dryer during an #OhmHour, and you’ll receive points for your good deed. Points turn into cash that you can deposit directly to your bank account via Paypal or Venmo.

OhmConnect partnered with California’s electricity market operator, California ISO, and passes the savings on to the user at no cost, although the company does take a 20 percent cut.

First the user must sync their electricity provider with the OhmConnect app. The company addresses security worries by explaining that “all personal information is encrypted through robust AES 256 bit CBC encryption algorithms and stored on physically isolated servers.” Currently its only working with three utility companies: PG&E, SCE and SDG&E.

During a period of high demand energy use, OhmConnect sends a text announcing it’s an “#OhmHour” and asks users to reduce energy usage if possible. These hours occur once or twice per week primarily during the morning and evening.

As your points rack up, you have a choice to “cash out” via Paypal or Venmo. Automatically you receive $20 just for signing up, although you must wait for your first official #OhmHour alert before cashing out. You also have to option to donate the cash you’ve earned to a charity of choice.

If users collectively choose to cut down on energy usage during high demand periods, then that’s a big win for energy conservation.

Regardless of the potential extra $50 to $150 a year users may receive, it’s a fascinating in-depth look at local power grids and the state of sustainable energy.

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