Last week I attended a luncheon hosted by my local electric/gas company PG&E and Opower, thanks to Mom Central. The purpose of the event was to share information on how to conserve energy and save money. As a new and, frankly, flat broke home owner, I was very interested in the topic. I need all the money savings I can get and I live in California – home of the rolling blackouts – so if I can avoid those, all the better!
So, here’s the deal with PG&E and Opower. PG&E is the utility company for the majority of California and they have enlisted the help of Opower, a software company, to employ an energy management system that will help engage and encourage customers to conserve energy. PG&E’s revenue is no longer based on how much electricity people use; instead there are regulations in place that state they must develop energy savings programs in order to receive profits. This is a huge win for the environment as it makes everyone more aware of conserving precious resources and a win for consumers because it will save money and keep the power on longer.
A fact that really struck me was that since 2008 Opower has saved enough electricity to take a city the size of Oakland off the grid for an entire year. They’ve done this by harnessing the power of our peers because research has shown that the best way to get people to cut back on their energy use is to educate them about what their neighbors are doing. It’s easy not to think about how much you use on a daily basis and live in La La Land thinking you’re doing plenty for the environment, but if you get a report that shows that you are an energy hog compared to your neighbors? Well, damn, that makes an impact! No one wants to be the asshole neighbor – particularly when they find out they’re being put in a higher rate tier and paying more money because of it.
For my fellow PG&E customers, there are some awesome things in store on the PG&E website. The first is already available – if you log into your account online you can run various reports on your energy consumption and get tailored tips on what your household can do to lower your consumption and save money. It’s super easy to find out about rebates and other incentives you qualify for with this interface, as well. Anybody need some evidence to show their spouse that the old piece of crap refrigerator that clicks all day long needs to be replaced? This is your chance – you can probably even qualify for cash back.
My favorite graph is the one that shows you how much electricity you are using at different times of day – I figure you can catch someone stealing your internets at noon on a Tuesday if you pay attention – “Hm, what’s that curious spike in the middle of the day when no one is home?” You might also be able to detect a malfunctioning appliance before it shuts down completely on you.
Many customers are now receiving printed reports along with their paper bills that show what their consumption is right alongside their neighbors’. A lot of the houses on our block are the same size and have a lot of the same features inside – so if I find out I’m using more electricity than most of my neighbors, I can then go and figure out what they are doing that I’m not! Maybe it really is time to replace those windows.
Even more fun is the social apps Opower has developed. For instance, they’ve partnered with Facebook in order to implement an app that allows you to see how you stack up with your friends as far as energy consumption goes. Nothing like a little bit of friendly competition to inspire environmental conscience, right?
I’ve jumped right into using the online tools. Our energy usage is pretty good so far and our bills are manageable, but I’m hoping we can fine tune what we do around the house and make the most of every dollar. (I know my husband is hoping this gets me to turn off more lights around the house. But I NEED LIGHT!) PG&E has shown that those customers who simply log in to the site to review their account and energy usage save 23% more on gas than other customers. One of the tools to assist with this is their energy alert system, which triggers an email, phone call, or text message when you are about to go into the next (more expensive) rate tier. If there are only a few days left in the billing cycle, maybe you can bundle up a bit more and take shorter showers until your next cycle begins and save a bit of cash! I know I would use that cash for a latte…
Opower is partnering with utility companies all over the country (and the world!), so keep an eye out. Here is a list of where they are now so that you can take advantage of these awesome tools:
- AEP Ohio (OH)
- Arizona Public Service (AZ)
- Burbank Water and Power (CA)
- Commonwealth Edison (IL)
- Connexus Energy (MN)
- Constellation / Baltimore Gas & Electric (MD)
- Southern Company / Gulf Power (FL)
- National Grid (MA, NY)
- Pacific Gas & Electric (CA)
- PPL Electric Utilities (PA)
- San Diego Gas & Electric (CA)
- Xcel Energy (MN, CO)
Have you heard of these tools before? Are you using them? If not, I hope you all will all join me in using these tools so that we can start saving money AND the environment.
I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of PG&E and Opower. I attended an informational luncheon and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.