There’s no shortage of free online services aimed at helping consumers do things like track their energy consumption, see how much they consume compared to their peers and lower energy consumption using various tools and incentives. You’ve got Wattzon, Ecomap, Wattbot and others. The carrots these consumers are chasing are lower utility bills and the satisfaction that comes from knowing they are lightening their footprint on the planet. But the startup Earth Aid is offering consumers a new kind of carrot: hard, cold, green cash.
That’s the idea, anyway. Participants won’t see any money for their efforts until they lower their power consumption for a full year, meanwhile giving Earth Aid a look-see at their utility bills so that the company can verify the numbers (the bills show Earth Aid how much energy the participating household used each month, and how much the utility company charged for each therm and kilowatt hour).
Then, Earth Aid will take your savings and the savings of other participants – which, presumably, will represent a healthy chunk of savings – and then sell them, as a bundle, in the carbon markets. The buyers will be companies looking to offset their carbon footprints by buying carbon credits, either through carbon exchange markets or directly form Earth Aid.
How much participants make off this scheme will depend on two factors: how much they save (and therefore, the percentage of savings they contribute to the credits) and the fluctuating value of carbon credits. In this Washington Post article, Ylan Q. Mui offers some examples based on recent values per ton of carbon on the Chicago Climate Exchange and the European Climate Exchange. At anywhere from 18 cents to a buck and some change for a household with a 10 percent consumption reduction, the theoretical savings are rather small at current rates, based on average energy consumption rates Mui collected from the EPA. But the more participants cut back their consumption, the more they could save. Of course, it’s also impossible to know the value of carbon credits a year from now.
The service is free to participants, but Earth Aid plans to make money in two ways: from marketing partnerships with providers of energy-efficient appliances and tools for the home, and through brokerage fees from the sales of the carbon credits.
What do you think of Earth Aid’s business model? Does it stand – or even deserve – a chance to thrive? Would you participate in the program?