Company makes power bills more understandable, suggests how to save energy

May 29, 2012

It's often said that knowledge is power. Knowledge about power is what drives Opower, a 5-year-old online customer engagement platform.

The company's Home Energy Reports personalize and provide energy-efficiency tips for about 13 million U.S. , all customers of 70 utility companies throughout the country, including eight of the 10 largest. The utility companies include Opower's individualized household reports in monthly bills, telling customers how much electricity they have used that month and that year, how they compare to their neighbors and what they can do to reduce energy consumption in the coming month.

"The basic idea was to change the way utilities communicate with customers," said Alex Laskey, president and co-founder of Opower. "We take the utility bill, which is fairly opaque, impossible to understand and not terribly helpful, and give (customers) a better idea of their energy consumption, and help them with ."

Laskey, who previously ran and specialized in health-care and environmental policy, and co-founder Daniel Yates, friends from their days at Harvard University, started Opower in San Francisco in January 2007. The impetus was Yates' life-changing nine-month trip from Alaska to Patagonia the previous year. "He came back and was so devastated by the he saw and was committed to doing something about the environment," Laskey said of his partner, who was unavailable to comment for this story. "He came to me and said, 'Let's do something together.'"

Laskey had become disillusioned with politics, which he had entered "to change the world," he said wryly. He and Yates, who has a software background, determined that the physical world needed changing. One way to help was by reducing energy consumption, one customer at a time. "The attitudes on climate change were politicized, but the idea of saving and not wasting energy, people were in universal agreement that that was a good idea," Laskey said.

And save they have. In the next couple of weeks, Laskey said, Opower will have helped people collectively save 1 terawatt hour. In the next year, they will save another terawatt, he said, and the company continues to expand its customer base.

Why do utility companies sign on with Opower? Being governmentally regulated monopolies, utilities in many states have financial incentives to achieve energy efficiency. Opower, through its customer empowerment model, helps reduce , earning a utility more profit, Laskey said. Utility companies also recognize the importance of customer service, he said. "Forward-looking utilities executives believe customers have the right to know this information and understand how they can save."

Opower has opened an office in London and partnered with Honeywell to create a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat that can be controlled by a smartphone or a laptop.

"Our company is not going to be a silver bullet solution for . This is the biggest problem facing mankind," he said. "The first step in getting people to save energy is making them engaged and informed. The second is providing them the tools to do so."

Explore further: Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

More information: © 2012, Mother Nature Network
Distributed by MCT Information Services

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Can we balance air conditioning, saving energy?

Jun 21, 2011

( -- When it's 100-plus degrees outside, all you want to do is turn up the air conditioning inside. Because of all of this cooling, some government-mandated incentive programs are aimed at getting us to buy more ...

Recommended for you

Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

15 hours ago

The Indonesian parliament on Tuesday passed a long-awaited law to bolster the geothermal energy industry and tap the power of the vast archipelago's scores of volcanoes.

Expert calls for nuke plant closure (Update)

Aug 25, 2014

A senior federal nuclear expert is urging regulators to shut down California's last operating nuclear plant until they can determine whether the facility's twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from ...

Image: Testing electric propulsion

Aug 20, 2014

On Aug. 19, National Aviation Day, a lot of people are reflecting on how far aviation has come in the last century. Could this be the future – a plane with many electric motors that can hover like a helicopter ...

Where's the real value in Tesla's patent pledge?

Aug 20, 2014

With the much-anticipated arrival next month of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla's Model S to Australian shores, it's a good time to revisit Tesla's pledge to freely share patents. ...

User comments : 0