It’s one thing to be told you’re getting a discount; but everyone loves having cash wired into their account. Such an incentive could encourage more utility customers to save on their energy usage. Charts comparing current usage to that of the previous year may be eye-catching and arouse curiosity, but cash generates far more attention.
To that end, MeterHero, a Web-based utility monitoring tool, is looking to encourage people to conserve water and energy through cash rebates sponsored by businesses with sustainability goals.
Such a tactic is important because water scarcity will only worsen over the coming decades. California’s water struggles have long been documented. Las Vegas and Atlanta are also dealing with water scarcity. Even Chicago, located in the water-rich Great Lakes region, could face water shortages in the coming decade. While agriculture continues to consume most of the freshwater in the United States — 70 percent more or less, depending on the source — municipal water agencies need to save every drop, as the cliché goes. The same goes for energy. Consumers may be giddy over filling their tanks for less than 20 bucks, but oil and gas prices will eventually rise again as the population increases and economy grows.
MeterHero started out as a business application. Users could create an account, upload old utility bills to set a baseline reading, and then MeterHero’s technology would crunch the numbers and sort out ways to save money. Meanwhile the company started a pilot program in Wisconsin that connected businesses with local residents. Those who achieved water savings received discounts and gift certificates from sustainably-minded organizations. Eventually MeterHero’s technology advanced to the point at which the company claimed it could track any meter, anywhere in the world.
Such access to data is important because it allows anyone to benefit from a rebate system — not just homeowners or landlords of apartment complexes. If a resident has access to a meter and can upload the information to MeterHero, eventually that person can reap some savings. And in an age of smart meters, which are now installed at over 40 percent of homes, there is even more incentive to be conscious about energy consumption. Water-metering technology is not as sophisticated, but with more cities levying fines for excessive water usage, there should be even more motivation to conserve this precious resource.
For now the cash rebate program is at a pilot scale. Users sign up for the service, sort out what local businesses participate in the plan, and then upload their data or link their utility accounts online to MeterHero. Businesses can showcase their commitment to sustainability by offering rebates and incentives to participants and offsetting their own energy or water usage. Once a baseline has been established, participants can receive rebates via PayPal, Bitcoin or Venmo. True, it will take a while for a program like this to catch on. But if we as a society are going to become far more aware about the resources we consume, the use of a carrot approach such as MeterHero will be far more effective than the stick of fines and other penalties.
Image credit: EVB Energy Ltd.
Based in California, Leon Kaye has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. He shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.