5 Apps Revolutionizing How We Use Energy


Energy consumer technology is going through something of a revolution.

Firstly, it is becoming much easier to save energy—and therefore money—by using “smart” technology to switch off at peak times and switch on when power is cheap.

Energy consumer technology is going through something of a revolution. Photo credit: Pixabay

At the same time rooftop solar panels are becoming both more affordable and efficient, enabling customers to generate far more renewable energy than they need.

As a result home energy storage too is becoming increasingly available—with more companies joining Tesla in producing boiler-sized lithium-ion batteries to keep in their garages.

All of this can make traditional energy consumers savers and producers of energy—that they can sell back to the grid or even on to others who may be more in need of it at the time.

Now, obviously, like the BBC, we don’t endorse any one app or piece of kit. Other app providers exist and they could well be better.

But for illustrative purposes here are five pieces of software—web applications or “apps”—creating a new generation of energy users and producers who have, on occasion, been given the truly horrible name of “prosumers.”

1. Ohmconnect: Switch Off a Few Hours a Week, Get Sent a Check

Ohmconnect is an energy app start-up in California that helps customers save energy and earn money doing it.

It’s designed for people getting energy from the grid and it works like this: You earn money by powering down gadgets in your home for about 30 minutes following a notification from the app. This can actually be as easy as turning off a few light switches.

If you have smart gadgets—like Nest thermostats or a Tesla Model S sitting in the garage—the app can also turn things down for you, so you don’t even have to be home to clock up your #OhmHours.

You then get paid up—to $300 per year—with the added satisfaction that you’ve saved tonnes (literally) of CO2 emissions.

Everything is monitored through a simple mobile app and web dashboard. You can log in with Facebook or Google and even give #OhmHours to others as a referral.

You can get the detail on exactly how Ohmconnect are able to do this on their blog.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/119419875 expand=1]

Meet Adam. Adam has a beard, likes trees and uses OhmConnect

Not long ago a group of American electric power producers got together to try to stop a rule that allows utility customers to be compensated for saving power at wholesale prices—which can spike to a few times above retail prices.

This obviously threatened the Ohmconnect business model.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that utility customers who save energy at specific time are entitled to receive those payments.

OhmConnect is only currently available in California.

2. sonnenCommunity: “A Utility Without Power Plants”

Last year a German company called sonnenBatterie released a home energy storage battery to rival Tesla Energy’s much-feted Powerwall.

And it all happened so fast—sonnenBatterie actually beat the long-trailed Powerwall to the U.S. retail market.

The big attraction with sonnenBatterie is that you can buy the full package—solar panels, inverters, control technology and of course the lithium-ion battery pack—for little more than 10,000 euros. (This is better than buying it all separately, although the battery isn’t the biggest out there).

The company then set up sonnenCommunity—which is simply a virtual pool of people with these solar-plus-storage systems.

With this virtual network, system owners can connect others with the system to trade or share their excess solar power.

Everyone with a sonnenBatterie is in the network. The software calculates how much is fed into the grid by each user and gives the producer control over selling that on to others—whether they have a sonnenBatterie or not.

Mathias Block from the company—now just called sonnen—explains: “We’re kind of an utility without power plants since we’ll have thousands of small, decentralized and digital connected producers and consumers. Conventional producers of energy with their fossil and nuclear power and huge centralized plants won’t be necessary anymore.”

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