San Francisco Chronicle: Some Oakland, San Jose residents to get smart thermostats to help save energy
San Francisco Chronicle – May 19, 2021
By J.D. Morris
The mayors of San Jose and Oakland announced Wednesday that their cities will each obtain thousands of smart thermostats to help residents save energy and try to prevent more rolling blackouts this summer.
Both Bay Area cities, along with Fresno and Bakersfield, are partnering with Oakland company OhmConnect, which compensates utility customers for conserving electricity at times when demand surges.
Each of the four cities will receive 25,000 free thermostats that can equip homes to participate in OhmConnect’s program. The city that puts the thermostats in the greatest share of homes and connects them to OhmConnect by Sept. 30 will receive $50,000 from the company to be put toward educational scholarships.
OhmConnect participants get notifications that tell them when a period of intense electric grid demand approaches. If residents conserve enough that their energy usage is less than forecast during the high-demand period, they’re compensated with points that can be cashed out or used for company-issued rewards.
OhmConnect gets paid by utilities to help reduce energy use during times of particularly high demand and passes earnings along to users who qualify for compensation. The company was also recently awarded a $3 million grant from the state energy commission.
Cities partnering with the company view it as a way to help ward off rolling blackouts like the ones the state experienced over two days in August. At the time, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses throughout the state lost power when energy supplies ran unexpectedly short amid a heat wave. The California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s electric grid, has warned that shortages could occur again if a similar heat wave takes hold this summer, even with improvements made to the grid since then.