Uncategorized October 7, 2014

Springer, a LASD School, Saves Energy While Funding School

New technology, designed to cash in on energy reductions, used as a fundraiser

Why have a bake sale when you can turn off the lights and adjust the thermostat? A Bay Area tech company has partnered up with Springer Elementary School in a pilot program that would allow families to raise money for the school by saving energy at home, with a starting goal of $10,000.

Taking advantage of a policy that compensates energy reduction as if it were energy generation, San Francisco-based Ohmconnect has an online program that allows people to make money when they use less energy.

Ohmconnect uses information from the user’s PG&E account to determine the energy usage of various appliances in the home, and how much energy has been “generated” through reductions, according to Curtis Tongue, co-founder of Ohmconnect. The system can alert users, via email or text message, that they are receiving energy from a dirty or inefficient power plant. Users can then turn off appliances and air conditioners and, consequently, get paid to save energy.

Tongue said most people see a 5 to 10 percent reduction in their electric bill using the program, and 80 percent of the money generated goes back to the users.

But in a pilot program with Springer Elementary School, Ohmconnect can be used as a method to raise money for the school, and that 80 percent return can instead be invested in a school fund. By opting into the program through the Springer portal on the website, families can reduce their carbon footprint and be more energy efficient while supporting their local school.

“Parents can donate $100 a year to their school, really just for turning the lights off,” Tongue said.

If more schools adopt the program, Tongue said schools could compete to see who can save more energy and raise more money as a means to drum up more interest in the fundraiser. He said there has also been some discussion on whether the funding model could be changed so half the money raised would go to the school, and the other half would go to the school district.

Tongue reached out to Springer parent Brent Crane, who chairs the Springer Technology Committee and is largely responsible for the partnership. Crane said he signed up for Ohmconnect last summer as a “cool way” to get a WiFi thermostat, and as a way to save energy and make a little money. He said Tongue presented the school fundraiser idea, and he was able to help fine-tune the funding goals — which were a little ambitious at first — and roll out the program a few weeks ago.

“I think it’s an easy way to generate some donations to Springer,” Crane said. “It’s a win-win solution for us.”

Crane said if a third or even a quarter of the families at Springer sign up for the program, it would be in the top five fundraising sources for the school.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Crane said. “Competition leads to innovation. And innovation, in this case, is savings and funding for the school.”