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The Cool Cash Program incentivizes efficient home cooling, generates community cooling opportunities & reduces waste heat additions to UHI.



The Cool Cash Program (CCP) is a waste heat reduction program that 1) incentivizes households to more efficiently and effectively provide cooling at the times and places that it is most needed and 2) generates cooling resources that can be redistributed and targeted for others experiencing high temperatures. CCP aims to mitigate adverse heat-health outcomes by lowering the temperatures individuals actually experience at the appropriate scale for human health and well-being.

  1. At each month’s start (June - Sept), participating households create an Ideal Usage Goal (IUG) for their electricity bill. IUG must be below the Neighborhood Average Scenario (NAS), calculated from the average zip code electricity bill and scaled to property size. The NAS - IUG difference is the Beat the Heat Bet (BHB) and will be entered as a virtual commitment to the CCP.
  2. During the month, households implement personalized strategies to lower electricity usage and meet their IUG. Because air conditioning (AC) may be a large portion of summer costs, successful households will find more efficient/effective means of cooling. These include thoughtful timing of AC/fans/passive cooling, use of smart/programmable thermostats, or adoption of geothermal/solar energy. Households may acclimatize to slightly higher thermostat settings without sacrificing thermal comfort, thus lowering energy usage as well.
  3. At the month’s end, successful IUG households receive back their full BHB as Cool Cash with a multiplier discussed in the following section. Households that met or exceeded their NAS receive back their BHB and nothing more. Households that beat their NAS but not their IUG will receive both part of their BHB (to pay the difference) and the remaining Cool Cash. 


Cool Cash will be distributed virtually and through the mail, depending on participating household preference. See References for a sample participant, including examples of Cool Cash usage.

Category of the action


Who will take these actions?

The city’s CCP team will seek local partnerships to support the Cool Cash multiplier (which is 1.5x for personal use and 2x if gifted to neighbors, friends or strangers in Cambridge, selected non-profits, or the city for reallocation).

The incentives for local enterprises to participate are opportunities to advertise, attract new customers, and invest in an innovative and sustainability-oriented program. Movie theaters, cafes, and energy companies may most directly feel these motivations. The health sector may participate due to the immense burden that heat-related morbidity places on the health system on hot days and during heat waves. 

Partnerships with Eversource and MyHEAT would allow CCP to better monitor household electricity usage through the Energy Profiler Online tool and waste heat production through HEAT Scores, respectively (see Related Proposals).

Households in East Cambridge and Cambridge Highlands will be mailed invitations to participate in this potentially money-making program by the Dept. of Human Services. These neighborhoods were selected due to high projected outdoor temperatures in those regions and contain 6,330 households in total (392 in Cambridge Highlands; 5938 in East Cambridge). If 1,250 households participate (20%) and each household generates a BHB of $10 each month, a potential $50K will be generated from participating households alone (1250 households x $10 x 4 months). In this scenario, where 100% of bets are returned as Cool Cash, the value generated would range from $75K to $100K, and would include between $25K and $50K from local partners. Each household could earn up to $80 in Cool Cash. Households are incentivized to gift their Cool Cash to maximize its value. Thus, BHB savings will be converted to community cooling resources.

What are other key benefits?

  • Targeted cooling interventions for the places and times that it is most needed within two Cambridge neighborhoods with high heat indexes.
  • Incentivization of more efficient home-cooling strategies/technologies.
  • Reduction of waste heat generated by excess electricity usage, which will lower UHI
  • Decentralization of cooling decisions so households can decide how best to cool themselves.
  • Empowerment of households to consider and address heat-related vulnerability within their community.
  • Increased sense of livability, empathy, and community within the city as households, businesses, government, and industry partners work together to solve the problem of heat exposure.
  • Strengthened partnerships with local business and industry.
  • Quantifiable reductions in home cooling by participating households, inputs from local partners, and uses of Cool Cash for flexible and personalized cooling strategies.
  • Opportunity to use CCP framework for a winter community warming program called Snow Dough or Frost Funds.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The principal cost of this proposal is administrative. A small team will need to reach out to household participants, hold informational meetings, forge partnerships with local businesses and industries, work with community organizations to build interest and gain early adopters, and create the technological platform to handle the placement of BHBs and Cool Cash conversions. To ensure maximum flexibility, this platform should include a website, an app for smartphones, and mail-in participation for households without internet. The CCP team will also standardize NAS for meteorology. If Cambridge experiences an exceptionally hot or cool month, the NAS will be adjusted accordingly after the fact so that households are not penalized for additional cooling during extreme heat conditions.

The cost of supporting the administrative team will depend on the scale of participation and program longevity. A $100K commitment would likely give Cambridge the ability to hire a two-person team for a year to run the program.

See Related Proposals for costs associated with MyHEAT.

The City of Cambridge will also provide funds for the multiplier that would depend on the scale of the program and the number of local partners. For example, if households generate a BHB pot of $10K in June (1,000 households, BHBs of $10), the maximum matching funds needed are $10K. Nest (for example) and an alliance of other businesses that provide informal cooling refuges, such as cafes and movie theaters, may pledge $7.5K to build the multiplier. In return, these enterprises would see an increase in their consumer base as participating households spend or gift their Cool Cash. Cambridge would cover the other $2.5K for the month (or $10K for the summer).

See References for how a sample participant may use Cool Cash.

If the CCP prevents a few hospitalizations and decreases energy costs and waste heat production, the value to the City of Cambridge and its urban ecosystem would far exceed the cost of the program.

Time line

CCP will succeed if a small group of early adopters participate in the program and find that it is useful and easy. This group can help improve the logistics of the program as it scales up and their testimonials will provide evidence that others should participate as well. Early adopters will be enticed by the innovative nature of the program as well as the opportunity to use Cool Cash to cool themselves and others in their community. Below is a timeline if the City of Cambridge desires to begin CCP in summer 2016, for a 1 month pilot with a small group of residents.

  • Winter 2015-16: Initiate contact with local partners to gage interest and create online infrastructure for handling BHBs and Cool Cash conversions.
  • Spring 2016: Reach out to a small number of residents to run a pilot. Hold informational meetings to explain mechanics of the program and solicit feedback on design.
  • June 2016: Enroll interested households in program. Households place BHBs for July.
  • July 2016: Run pilot month.
  • Fall 2016: Solicit feedback from participants and make adjustments to the program. Increase contact with local partners and improve online infrastructure. Hold a public forum to advertise CCP and hear input from community.
  • Spring 2017: Begin mailing campaign within the two neighborhoods. Hold public meetings to explain program mechanics and enroll interested households.
  • June - September 2017: CCP runs for 4 months
  • Fall 2017: Surveys and interviews delivered to participating households to solicit feedback.
  • Repeat.


CCP can be scaled up even further to include the entire city and eventually commercial enterprises in Cambridge that likely have a greater contribution to the pool of waste heat than individual households.

In the long term, total energy efficiency may be reached and only new Cambridge residents may enroll in the program. CCP can build community empathy and awareness until waste heat production is totally minimized and human heat exposure is no longer a pressing problem.

Related proposals

MyHEAT Cambridge MA seeks to visualize, quantify, and provide reduction/mitigation solutions for waste heat escaping from individual homes, communities and cities. MyHEAT’s HEAT Scores would be an ideal way to measure changes in waste-heat production from participating households. Electricity usage data paired with HEAT Scores could effectively trace how participating households reduce AC usage to provide more targeting cooling and decrease waste heat production. With this tool, CCP can offer additional incentives to the households or communities that make the greatest reductions to waste heat (a goal that overlaps with reducing electricity usage). HEAT Scores can also help CCP identify individual households and communities within Cambridge that produce the most waste heat for future participation in the program,

The cost of the MyHEAT program is roughly $2.50 per household and could therefore range from $3,125 (1,250 households) to $117,500 (47,000 households), before tax (5%).


CCP was inspired by a successful water conservation program in Indianapolis. Residents could engage in a suite of positive behaviors, such as installing a rain barrel, in return for "water currency" that could be used at participating local businesses:

Individually Experienced Temperatures are often unrelated to outdoor conditions:

Calculations of local electricity bills:

Beneficial effect of fans in extreme heat and humidity:

Smart thermostat from Nest:

UHI in Cambridge:

Health sector burden of heat-related morbidity:

Eversource and Eversources's Energy Profiler Online: and

Households in Cambridge Neighborhoods:

Contribution of waste heat to UHI:

MyHEAT Cambridge MA:and MyHEAT:

Below is reference example participant to illustrate the mechanics of the CCP:

Natalie is an East Cambridge resident that participates in CCP. She sets an IUG of $93 in June with the knowledge that her NAS is $103. She enters her BHB of $10 into the CCP website but no money is actually transferred until the end of the month. Throughout the month, Natalie reduces her AC usage during times that it is not as necessary and makes sure to unplug other electronic devices in her home when not in use. She also investigates home retrofit solutions with Next Step Living and considers purchasing a smart thermostat from Nest. At the end of the month, her electricity bill comes out to $98. She keeps $5 from her BHB to pay her bill and earns $5 in Cool Cash. Natalie decides to keep $2 in Cool Cash for herself (which becomes $3 through the 1.5x multiplier) and gift the other $3 (which becomes $6). On a particularly hot day, Natalie brings her $2 in Cool Cash to Flour Bakery to buy an ice coffee that has a value of $3 (because of the x1.5 multiplier). Her gift of $3 to the Salvation Army Cambridge Corps Community Center helps them purchase $6 of water bottles to distribute to the homeless on hot days (because of the x2 multiplier).