Lowfoot.com — Paying you to conserve electricity

June 10th, 2011 by Cathy Rust Leave a reply »

Is it too good to be true? A website that pays you to save electricity? I thought so until I received my first statement where I had racked up $0.42 in Lowfoot credits in less than two weeks. Granted, $0.42 isn’t going let me retire any time soon, but it certainly gives me the motivation to do more.

Lowfoot.com was started by Philip Playfair and Steve Hammond. Both had already worked within the utility industry before when they’d founded and eventually sold a company called Advanced Utility Systems. I contacted Phil to ask him about the company’s unique approach to helping people conserve electricity. I have to admit that paying people to save electricity is definitely a unique approach to conserving — and probably even more motivating than just seeing a lower Hydro bill every two months. So I had to ask Phil — “How are you able to fund our albeit small payouts every month?” He told me that they fund it through general revenue from advertising, but that eventually they will be looking for companies to sponsor each month’s pay out.

Believe it or not, the model isn’t new. Recyclebank in the US does something very similar: Working with municipalities across the US, the company encourages people to recycle by giving them points that go towards savings and discount coupons towards new products. The points are sponsored by companies such as Proctor and Gamble and Unilever.

How Lowfoot works: Create an account, and give Lowfoot.com permission to access your electricity account. Currently Lowfoot is able to access information from a growing list of utility companies in Ontario. Eventually its services will be available across North America.

Once you’ve created an account and have given Lowfoot access to your utility account, it will show your usage history, calculate your current average daily use, and set a target for you to achieve, usually 10% below your current use.

What I really like about this program is that you get daily emails telling you whether you’ve achieved your target for the previous day or not. What that means is that you don’t have to wait for two months (in the case of Toronto Hydro) to find out how you’re doing.

Daily emails are far more motivating to get you to do more to cut your consumption and bi-monthly hydro bills. But what’s really interesting is that you can see how many LFCs (Lowfoot credits) you’ve earned through conservation. In addition, even if you don’t save during off-peak hours, you can earn credits when you conserve during peak use. So, if you can reprogram your central air conditioner, or go without during the day, you’ll earn more credits during this time.

It makes sense. As the Lowfoot website explains:

The ultimate goal of Lowfoot is to have our community generate enough capacity to significantly—and permanently—reduce the demand on your local grid. This means that utilities will save money on infrastructure, can avoid building new power plants, and won’t have to fire up old, dirty plants when demand exceeds supply. There’s significant value in that.

Every step of the way, Lowfoot shares a portion of our revenue with our membership, to reward you for lowering your usage—and to keep you earning!

As the company grows and shows that its members consistently conserve electricity, particularly during peak times, the company anticipates being able to sell those carbon credits on an open market and share the wealth with its members. As the website points out:

It’s all about numbers and consistency. If you reduce your consumption by 10 kilowatt hours a day, you’ll save a few dollars on your electricity bill.

But if you and 10,000 other Lowfoot members do the same thing at the same time, you are generating just as much power as 100 small windmills!

Now imagine 10 million people doing the same thing. That’s a huge amount of power—but it all starts with you.

For those of us interested in tracking our conservation efforts and seeing whether our efforts are effective, signing up for Lowfoot is a no-brainer. You get daily emails telling you how you’re doing, and you make money every time you hit your conservation target or below.

This website, along with an energy monitoring device (such as the Kill A Watt or Power Cost Monitor), can help you take real steps towards energy conservation.

For more information, or to sign up for Lowfoot, visit the website.

Thanks for the information Phil!

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