Simple Energy And San Diego Gas & Electric Team Up To Encourage Conservation Through Gaming

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2011 Boulder TechStars graduate Simple Energy is teaming up with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to help the utility engage its customers in energy conservation efforts.

To accomplish this, Simple Energy is running an energy saver contest that offers a social gaming experience with real-world rewards.

The contest is in collaboration with the White House’s recent smart grid announcement, which detailed a number of new initiatives meant to accelerate the modernization of the U.S.’s electric grid through the use of smart grid technologies.

In the case of the Simple Energy contest┬ácalled “Biggest Energy Saver,” the idea is to make energy saving a fun game where customers compete against their neighbors to waste less, and subsequently lower their electric bills.

Using data from the home’s smart meter, SDG&E will measure year-over-year energy consumption (kWh) of the participants for three months. Customers can “compete” by making changes to their home, like weatherizing doors and windows, sealing air leaks, adjusting thermostats, switching to energy-saving lightbulbs and more.

Participants are also encouraged to visit www.biggestenergysaver.com, where they can join with others in an online community to talk about smart meters and how to use smart technology to reduce their electricity consumption, control their electric costs, and help the environment.

The contest is sponsored by GRID 21, a new non-profit organization committed to engaging electricity customers in reducing consumption. During the course of the 3-month challenge, daily top savers are entered into drawings for $25 gift certificates to local stores, monthly savers can win an iPad 2 and the “Biggest Energy Saver” of them all wins a gaming laptop worth $1,500.

It does seem to be a bit odd that the energy saving contest awards energy-gobbling gadgets as prizes instead of something like discounts on new insulation or weather strips, for example. However, those awards clearly reflect the desire of today’s electricity-using households to fill their homes with more and more devices, which, in aggregate, help put a strain on the grid.

Teaching the early adopters of smart meters, who are also likely to be the gadget-obsessed top power consumers, how to better save energy may not be such a bad idea.