CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Sense and OhmConnect announced today the results of a pilot study to assess the impact of customer access to real time, appliance-specific energy usage and notifications on peak event savings. Through a combination of OhmHour rewards and high engagement with the Sense app, study participants delivered substantially higher savings than typical behavioral load management or demand response programs previously achieved. These outstanding savings reflect the power of in-the-moment messages and detailed home energy insights that guide motivated customers to save energy.
Sense users who actively participated in the OhmHours reward program reduced their energy usage 313w per OhmHour on average, lowering their home energy usage by 18% and increasing their average savings by 160% over the typical OhmConnect customer. Most participants (74%) reported that notifications from the Sense app during an OhmHour were important to better manage their energy.
The energy savings delivered by joint Sense and OhmConnect users were much higher than those realized in other behavior-based demand response programs run by utilities, which typically yield less than 4% savings. Sense users engage frequently with the Sense app to track their home's activity, with an average of nine app opens per month. This tendency to engage frequently translated into even higher engagement during the study. During Ohm events, Sense users engaged twice as frequently as during non-event hours. In a follow-up survey, more than half of participants reported they opened the app before or during the event to identify large loads they could shift.
Because of Sense's real-time load disaggregation, it was possible to gain insights into what people were actually doing during events. Based on an analysis of Sense home data, we could see that:
- Nearly 70% of those who saved energy had turned off their AC altogether during OhmHours, instead of just adjusting it up, suggesting that they had pre-cooled their homes in response to the Sense app notification.
- The Sense users who saved the most were 3 to 4 times less likely to run a dishwasher or do laundry during an event.
- Moreover, in a subsequent survey, 74% of participants agreed that receiving notifications from Sense was important.
- Over 64% of participants opted to get a smart thermostat or smart plug during enrollment, demonstrating their interest in further savings.
Today many utilities rely on bring your own thermostat (BYOT) programs to reduce electricity usage during peak events. While BYOT programs have succeeded in enrolling smart thermostats as dispatchable assets, they don't take full advantage of savings from the wide variety of additional household appliances that contribute to energy load during peak events. Further, these programs do not offer real-time energy monitoring and performance feedback to customers.
The Sense real time load disaggregation enables true, real-time device tracking. In the Sense app, users can see, in the moment, which household devices are turned on and how much electricity they're using. Leading up to OhmHour events, Sense users received notifications in the app with suggestions to precool their home and delay starting laundry and other high-energy activities during events. These recommendations were reinforced by seeing the real-time breakdown of the user's home energy usage in the Sense app, which made it easy to find the greatest savings.
OhmConnect, winner of the 2021 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award, enables hundreds of thousands of customers to reimagine how they use energy. During an OhmHour, when demand for electricity is greatest and power companies would ordinarily have to turn on dirty power plants, OhmConnect rewards customers for powering down.
Implications for Utility Demand Flexibility Programs
The Sense-OhmConnect pilot has important implications for utilities and grid operators that are trying to motivate customers to participate more actively in demand flexibility programs. With in-the-moment reminders and incentives, customers can be engaged in taking a more active, expanded role in demand response, which in turn can yield higher customer satisfaction and a more resilient grid.
The success of this trial demonstrates that behavioral programs supported by real-time, device level engagement can yield reliable peak energy savings that help demand response programs meet their goals and reduce reliance on peak thermal generation. The trial took place in California in summer 2021 during record heat waves and disruptions that led to multiple utility demand response events. When one might expect participation fatigue, the Sense users in the study made bigger cuts than average.
With real-time insights from the Sense app, utility customers could see the energy impact of deferring non-essential loads such as washers and dryers, and they were able to make informed decisions that had a bigger impact across their entire home's load.
Smart home automation gives customers a broader range of devices they can control to make a meaningful impact on reducing use without compromising comfort. In the future, the Sense app will be able to automatically shift key loads in the home by responding dynamically to signals from the grid and energy providers, while taking into account user preferences and constraints. For instance, Sense and Singularity Energy have demonstrated the potential for 43% savings in California by automating EV charging based on the carbon intensity of energy from the grid.
How the study was conducted
Sense users were enrolled in the OhmHours rewards program throughout the summer of 2021. Participants were given the option to receive a smart thermostat or smart plugs when they enrolled. Once enrolled, Sense-OhmConnect customers received targeted notifications through the Sense App one hour prior to an OhmHour and approximately five minutes into the event. The notifications included recommended actions to achieve maximum savings and encouraged users to consult the Devices screen in the Sense App to identify flexible loads that could be shifted into other time periods. After the study's conclusion, active participants were surveyed to learn more about their behavior and attitudes.
OhmConnect was founded in 2014 with the vision of becoming the world's largest supplier of clean energy. Today, OhmConnect enables hundreds of thousands of customers to reimagine how they use energy, to choose clean energy over dirty energy when required, and to be rewarded for timely, smarter, home energy use. OhmConnect makes it possible for customers to use clean energy without buying an expensive solar system or changing to a different energy provider from their common regional utility service. OhmConnect pays its users for saving energy when the grid is at risk of using dirty power. Customers of the three major California energy suppliers – Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – can sign up with OhmConnect for free at ohmconnect.com. Follow OhmConnect on Twitter @OhmConnect, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
At Sense' our mission is to reduce global carbon emissions by making homes smarter and more efficient. We empower people to care for their homes and families while contributing to a cleaner, more resilient future. Founded in 2013 by pioneers in speech recognition, Sense uses machine learning technology to provide real-time insights on device behavior, even for those devices that are not "smart." Sense has received investments from two of the world's largest energy technology companies, Schneider Electric and Landis + Gyr. Sense is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. To make sense of your energy, visit: https://sense.com.