Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on May 24, 2023
Summer is about to lower the boom on New York City. Luckily, there’s a way for co-op and condo residents to get paid for lowering their electricity use during those swampy days when air conditioners run full blast and the electric grid gets stretched to the blackout point.
It’s called GridRewards, and it was rolled out in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. For the 5 million Con Edison customers with a smart electric meter, the free GridRewards app can be downloaded to a smartphone. During the cooling season, May 1 through Sept. 30, it provides detailed data on the customer’s energy consumption, offers tips on how to reduce use and, critically, notifies users of upcoming “events” when the grid will be taxed by high demand. By cutting energy consumption during those events — a practice known as demand response — customers get paid cash rewards by Con Edison. The average household can earn more than $100 a year while paying a reduced electric bill.
GridRewards was created by Logical Buildings, a property technology company that approached Con Edison with an intriguing proposition back in 2013. “We were the first to go to Con Edison and say, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure,’” says Jeff Hendler, chief executive at Logical Buildings. “If people could see what they’re using, they’ll use less. Now, with Local Law 97 coming, there’s even more of an incentive to reduce energy use.”
A key development in this story was Con Edison’s wide distribution of smart electric and gas meters, which tell customers how much energy they’re using at 15-minute intervals.
“For the first time,” Hendler says, “consumers have access to time of use and cost of emissions. This information tells them how much they spent in the past hour, and what they can do to use less and improve the environment.”
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A key goal of GridRewards is to reduce energy consumption during times of high demand so that Con Edison doesn’t have to fire up highly polluting “peaker” plants to avert a blackout. Rewarding consumers with cash is cheaper — and better for the environment — than firing up those plants.
To download the app, visit GridRewards.com. There you’ll also find tips on ways to cut electricity use during summertime periods of peak demand, including raising the thermostat a few degrees when an event begins, shutting off air conditioners before leaving home, unplugging nonessential electronics and appliances, not using dishwashers, washing machines or dryers. Another suggestion is to charge electric vehicles at off-peak hours.
The benefits of smart meters and GridRewards are not confined to the warm months. “We see a lot of value throughout the year,” Hendler says, noting that precise data will, for example, reveal the benefits of lowering the thermostat in wintertime or leaving unused portions of a home unheated.
GridRewards serves to underline the old adage that information is power. David Klatt, the chief operating officer at Logical Buildings, writes on the company’s website: “Data — real-time, clear and accessible data — is the backbone of the future energy landscape… There are technologies and incentives on the market right now that, if broadly adopted, will enable energy users to drastically shift their consumption to their advantage. We are learning that the greatest solution to grid unreliability is the simple empowerment of small energy users over their data… Energy is not a one-way street anymore.”
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