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Simple Payments for Energy and Water Savings that Offset our Water and Energy Footprints

Why don't we conserve more? Even in perilous drought, conservation results are rarely above 10%. If we are going to solve the challenges of climate change and water scarcity, we need orders of magnitude improvements. Water and energy conservation is economically and ecologically valuable. We should treat it as such. We are creating a marketplace for sustainability. MeterHero Savers can volunteer to increase their water and energy efficiency and get paid by those seeking to offset their water and energy consumption. If I am a restaurant in a community, I have to use water and energy, but I can offset my use by funding rebates to those who are doing their part to save. Together, these community partners can make a huge difference.

Photo of McGee Young

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We have developed software that will automatically calculate your water and energy savings using historical utility billing data. At any time, you can update your data using your own meter, or you can wait until your next utility bill arrives. When that happens, we calculate your savings and send you cash: $1.00 for each 100 gallons of water, 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or 100 cubic feet of natural gas. These payments come in the form of a rebate. On your rebate statement, you'll find more information about the individual or business who has sponsored your rebate. And if you want to sponsor a rebate, that's as easy as deciding how much water and energy use to offset, where you want to make the rebates available, and what you want to tell people about sustainability.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea helps everyone in the community. It encourages people to save water and energy. It helps companies promote their sustainability work and give back to their communities. If you are a school, you can earn money for your programs by saving water and energy and you can teach students about the importance of conservation. The average household can earn about $10 per month each for water and energy. Payments continue as long as energy and water savings continue. Businesses with a triple bottom line can connect with customers who share the same values around sustainability. These become customers for life. And when kids learn about the importance of conservation at school, they adopt habits that follow them into adulthood.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

If I'm a household that uses an average of 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day and I install a solar panel that produces 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, I will reduce my average consumption to 20 kilowatt-hours per day. That means, I will earn $60 per month in rebates before making any other changes. At the same time, my local business can offset that amount of its own energy use, bringing it closer to "net-zero" by funding my rebate. Now the decision to install solar panels is an easy one to make. If I can make money by investing in renewable energy, it's an easy decision - even if I'm leasing the panels and not otherwise seeing a benefit. When we view our water and energy savings as something that creates value, we fundamentally change our approach to consuming these resources.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are actively testing this in the community! We have hundreds of people around the country saving water and energy and earning rebates. We are close to announcing the first round of rebate sponsors. We need more people to volunteer as MeterHero savers and more businesses to step up as sponsors to bring the idea closer to the mainstream.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

How do we bring more people into the program? What are the best ways to get people to think about water and energy not as a utility that they consume, but as a resource that they own and have responsibility over? We must change our public perception of conservation so that it's not something that happens privately, but rather it becomes an act that is visible to others and is linked to a broader community effort.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Sounds like you are doing some great work, McGee! From your testing so far, we'd love to learn more about what have you found challenging, surprising and successful.

And here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can appreciate who they're collaborating with here. Think skills, experience, passions & more. Looking forward to seeing more of you across conversations on this challenge...

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