Playing games online is a pleasant but unproductive way to pass the time, right?
But what if the same addictive properties that get people hooked on online games could help harness people power to reduce demand on Australia’s energy grid – all while players earn PayPal cash and gift cards?
Introducing Origin Spike
In 2020 Origin became the first Australian energy company to offer its customers a simple and fun way to get extra cash in their pockets just by making small changes to their energy use with the launch of Origin Spike. Rewards are delivered through the Spike dashboard which is able to monitor their energy use.
Already more than 25,000 customers have signed up to the program. Spike users are messaged with an opportunity to reduce stress on the grid by turning off appliances and raising the temperature setting of air conditioners.
Gamified demand management
The revelation came through Origin’s partnership with US company, OhmConnect, led by some of the brains behind hit games Words With Friends and Farmville.
OhmConnect’s gamified demand-management solution now has nearly 700,000 users in the US and Canada who have been paid more than $US12 million in rewards.
The potential for a gamified demand-management solution to support the energy grid and avert blackouts was recently demonstrated during California’s devastating bushfires.
As California’s energy grid came under extreme pressure in mid-August, the state’s systems operator was forced to shut down power to parts of the state for hours at a time across two consecutive days.
Following this, it issued a state-wide call out for residents to reduce demand during peak periods and OhmConnect’s demand management system came to the fore.
Across the next several days OhmConnect ran a series of events where users reduced their energy use and earned cash rewards. In total there were more than 1 million user hours across an eight-day period and customers shared in $US1.2 million for participating.
Most importantly, OhmConnect users helped reduce demand by approximately 1GWh and the state suffered no further blackouts.
Managing energy in Australia
The potential for gamified demand management through Spike to play an important role in managing Australia’s energy grid is huge.
“While customers will be rewarded for shifting their energy use, the broader network will also benefit as we can help reduce demand and support grid stability during peak periods,” said Tony Lucas, Origin EGM Future Energy and Technology.
“Demand management helps to reduce strain on the network when the balance between supply and demand can be tight. It also assists with the transition towards a cleaner, smarter energy system in Australia.”
Origin is already seeing high levels of participation by Spike users, with average participation in Spike Hours at around 70 percent, and customers regularly reducing their usage by an average of 50 percent.
With Australia seeing the biggest shift in energy in over 100 years, the role demand management systems such as Spike play may indeed be game changing.