Privacy isn't what it used to be; if you've ever done anything online, Google and other online services already know all about you. But loss of privacy to the internet is nothing new; for years, we've allowed “invaders” who have been able to amass quite a bit of data about us into our homes.
Among these “invaders” are the utilities who supply us with electricity, gas, water, and the like. They have extensive data about our usage habits, extrapolating from that information data on our income, lifestyle, family makeup, etc. There's little we can do about this; life without electricity would be unthinkable, so we compromise a little on our privacy as part of the “deal.”
When you look at it from this point of view, the idea of the electric company monitoring which appliances you use, and telling you when you should turn them off – and even turning them off itself when necessary – doesn't sound so creepy. So, you may be a candidate for a pilot program being run by Israeli startup Greenlet, which helps power companies to manage electricity usage, ensuring that there is enough power to go around even on the most high-demand days.
Greenlet just finished an initial program with the Israel Electric Company, in which several hundred customers were given special devices to attach to major appliances – mostly power-hungry items, like air conditioners, washing machines, dryers, etc. When power usage is high, the customer gets an SMS indicating that the IEC is facing a strain in supply. Customers can then choose to turn off appliances themselves – or ask the IEC to do it, via the device attached to the appliance. If they do turn off the appliances, they get paid – NIS 4 per kilowatt hour saved.
You might think that few people would be willing to give up autonomy over their electrical appliances, but you would be wrong: According to IEC statistics, the 150 families who participated in the initial program cut their electrical usage by as much as 50%! The program was so successful that the IEC plans to begin a new pilot program – with 3,000 households participating.
Actually it's not surprising that the IEC program was so successful. Greenlet has been doing something similar in the U.S. for months, working with several large U.S. utilities, including ncluding Austin Power, California's PG&E, and the Citizens Utility Board in suburban Chicago, as well as a large East Coast utility. Consumers in the areas where Greenlet is running the program – in which utilities can close off appliances when needed – are very happy with the program, a company spokesperson said, since they get paid for the energy they save. It may be a bit “invasive,” but the electric company already knows all about you anyway. Why not make some money off them?