Transmission tower

Saving energy helps you save money on your utility bills. In California, it can help you make money too.

The state increasingly relies on clean power. But there are still times when demand for energy is so high that old, polluting plants need to be turned on. Now, a game-like app called “OhmConnect” pays residents to save energy during those peak hours.

The app tracks participants’ home energy use. When demand on the grid is high, it sends users a text message, inviting them to cut down on energy use for an hour.

Tongue: “Points are calculated based on however much energy that user saved, and those points are immediately available for that user to cash out via PayPal.”

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That’s Curtis Tongue, cofounder of OhmConnect. He says the system is possible because of California programs that reward customers for reducing energy use during peak hours. The money comes from the utility, which pays OhmConnect for the saved energy. The company takes a percentage and the user gets the rest.

Tongue says users typically earn between $70 and $150 a year. And, they know they are helping reduce pollution from fossil fuels.

Tongue: “This is an easy way for a user to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...