Utilities. Exciting stuff, right? Uhm, right…
Last week, I had the opportunity to join other local bloggers in learning more about PG&E and OPower. These two companies have been working together to change they way we view our utilities. By endeavoring to engage customers, there is more efficient energy usage and costs for the customers (us) are lowered. The event was surprisingly interesting and very eye-opening.
Out of a full room of bloggers that are online all the time, only one admitted to having visited the PG&E site. Most of us just saved where we could (i.e. turn off lights when not in the room and keep thermostats at a modest level) then just paid the bill without even looking at it. I was curious to see how these companies planned to change this passive viewpoint.
The main question on my mind was directly addressed by PG&E – why would a company that makes money from energy want to sell less of it? Thanks to a little something called decoupling (see second video entitled, “Learn About Your Rate”) the amount of energy used is completely separate from their profits. They actually make more money by providing incentives for customers to use less and for initiatives to lower consumption.
Opower is a software platform that has been working with over 70 utility clients, reaching more than 13 million customers. They help utility companies, such as PG&E, examine their energy usage in real-world terms and therefore suggest deliberant adjustments to lower monthly utility usage/costs for customers. They are behind the ‘My Usage’ and ‘Ways to Save’ tabs on the PG&E website. I was shocked to see how relevant the data was and how it translated to adjustments each household could make. It showed energy consumption by hour and compared your usage to how much other similar homes in the neighborhood used. Turns out that a bit friendly competition is the best motivation for people to lessen consumption. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses…but in a good way.
It was great to know that California is doing awesome in responsible energy usage. We’ve saved enough to take Oakland, CA off the grid for a year! Still, there’s much more we can do. I, for one, plan on actually logging into my PG&E account to see where we are doing well and what we can change/adjust. Maybe we can be mindful of when we wash or figure out if something is draining constant energy without us being aware of it. Just being more knowledgable about how our gas and electricity is being used will go a long way for us and for teaching our daughter from a young age. I only wish we received a Home Energy Report (included on the paper statement) but amounts are tallied kind of funny in our rental complex.
While our rates may vary based on neighborhood makeup, location, and climate, here are three steps we can take to get started on saving:
- Participate in the Winter Gas Savings program.
- Visit PG&E’s Energy Efficiency Hub.
- Sign up for energy alerts via email, text, or phone.
There are also other tools available to use. Two of which are the Facebook app that lets you compete with family and friends to lower energy usage and a new thermostat which can be controlled remotely by your smartphone.For more tips and for those outside the area, feel free to follow the social happenings from PG&E and Opower at:
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.