Some Oakland, San Jose residents are getting smart thermostats to save energy

The Mayors of San Jose and Oakland announced Wednesday that their cities will each receive thousands of smart thermostats to help residents save energy and prevent further blackouts this summer.

Both cities in the Bay Area work together with Fresno and Bakersfield with the Oakland company OhmConnect, which compensates utility companies for saving electricity in times of increasing demand.

Each of the four cities will receive 25,000 free thermostats that households can use to participate in the OhmConnect program. The city, which has thermostats in most households and connects them to OhmConnect through September 30, will receive $ 50,000 from the company for educational grants.

OhmConnect subscribers receive notifications informing them when a phase of intense grid demand is approaching. If residents save enough that their energy consumption is less than forecast during the period of high demand, they are compensated with points that can be paid out or used towards company-issued rewards.

OhmConnect is paid by utility companies to reduce energy consumption during periods of particularly high demand and passes the revenue on to users who are eligible for compensation. The company recently received a $ 3 million grant from the state energy commission.

Cities that work with the company see this as an opportunity to ward off rolling power outages such as the state experienced over two days in August. At that time, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the state were losing electricity when energy supplies unexpectedly became scarce amid a heatwave. The California independent systems operator, which manages most of the state’s power grid, has warned that if a similar heatwave hits this summer, bottlenecks could occur again, even though improvements have been made to the power grid since then.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said traditional methods of responding to intense energy demands often rely on fossil fuels, making them “costly to our paperbacks and the planet”.

“Conservation offers residents a way to save and help the earth,” he said.

Liccardo said San Jose will leverage existing relationships with local nonprofits to sell the smart thermostats, giving priority to low-income residents.

“Our community recognizes that you don’t have to have the level of income required to buy a Tesla to benefit from a greener lifestyle,” Liccardo said.

OhmConnect attendees helped keep power outages from getting worse over the past year, the company said. They were able to save energy much like the way 600,000 homes were taken off the grid for an hour, earned a total of $ 1.3 million, and prevented power outages for several days after the first two days when grid managers ordered rotating outages, according to the company.

Cisco DeVries, CEO of OhmConnect, said in a statement that in light of the potential additional power outages in California this year, “is giving families across the state the opportunity to take responsibility for their energy futures to receive a free smart thermostat to.” save more energy and get paid for it. “

JD Morris is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @thejdmorris

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