Power outages and blackouts at aging electric grids are becoming common amid a rise in extreme heat waves, and some experts warn that outages will become even more prevalent in the years ahead. There’s no quick or easy structural fix for this problem. Still, individual power users can do their part by reducing their reliance on the grid during periods of high electricity demand.
One company helping them do that is OhmConnect, an Oakland, California-based energy management firm. OhmConnect helps hundreds of thousands of customers manage their at-home electricity and rewards them for smarter energy use. Thanks to a recent funding round, OhmConnect is set to expand its platform by millions more customers.
The company pays customers for saving electricity when the grid is stressed, helping to unlock renewable, affordable, and reliable energy. Customers can sign up for the service free at the company’s website.
The process itself is pretty straightforward. When grid operators anticipate periods of intense electricity demand, they contact OhmConnect, which then notifies customers via email or SMS. Customers can then reduce their energy usage by automatically powering down smart devices, saving laundry loads for another time, or figuring out other ways to cut energy. Customers who keep their connected devices off for an hour get credits that bring them closer to monthly rewards. Rewards come in various forms, including cash, chances to win prizes, and smart home technology.
OhmConnect partners with companies like Google, Carrier, and SunPower to connect its platform to different appliances and devices that can be powered off during peak electrical demand.
This is becoming increasingly important to grid operators tasked with figuring out how to navigate around extreme weather events to prevent power outages.
“We need homes to be able to flex demand in ways that work for customers, that they appreciate and are rewarded for, and that can be translated into dispatchable megawatts that can be used in lieu of power plants,” OhmConnect CEO Cisco DeVries said in a recent interview with Canary Media.
OhmConnect looks to rapidly expand its customer base and geographic reach following a $55 million Series D funding round announced on June 9. The round was led by ClearSky, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), and TELUS Ventures. Investors also included Carrier and SunPower, both of which signed partnership agreements with OhmConnect in March.
Proceeds from the round will enable OhmConnect to add millions of new customers in both U.S. and international energy markets, focusing on helping them save money by avoiding electricity use when it is most expensive.
“This investment signifies the commitment to flexible demand and highlights the critical role people can play in grid resiliency,” DeVries said in a press release. “As OhmConnect expands to millions of homes nationwide, broadscale participation will be the ultimate game changer for aging electric infrastructure.”
OhmConnect was co-founded in 2014 by Matt Duesterberg and Curtis Tongue, who brought experience in energy markets and consumer marketing. Duesterberg now serves as the company’s president. Also there at the beginning was Cadir Lee who has a background in technology and now serves as Chief Technology Officer.
The company got a big boost in late 2020 when SIP, backed by Google parent company Alphabet, provided OhmConnect with $80 million to finance the rollout of smart thermostats and smart plug devices in California.OhmConnect took another big step this past March when home appliance manufacturer Carrier and solar power company SunPower announced plans to integrate their technologies with OhmConnect’s platform.