Facebook, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Opower, and 16 US utility companies joined forces recently to create a social energy app launched today.
“With an initial reach of 20 million households, the effort is one of the most significant to date, enabling people to take action and become more energy efficient,” NRDC said in a statement today. “Leveraging the Facebook platform, the app allows people to quickly and easily start benchmarking their home’s energy usage against similar homes, compare energy use with friends, enter energy-saving competitions, and share tips on how to become more energy efficient.”
Want to give it a spin? Head on over to Opower, log in with your Facebook account (you can also connect without using Facebook), and explore. If you’re one of the 20 million customers serviced by the initial 16 utilities, you can also connect with your utility, track your energy conservation progress, and share your progress with friends and your Facebook acquaintances.
Not living in the US, I can’t explore much, but here are some more screenshots provided by NRDC and the crew to give you a feel for the inside, if you aren’t ready to go exploring yet:
Energy efficiency has huge potential in the US — it can help people save a ton of money and cut emissions considerably.
NRDC has found that “improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone.”
Getting People Excited about Saving Energy, the Environment, and Money!
The challenge is how to create those savings, how to motivate people and stimulate those improvements. Social gaming, as I just wrote, and social apps like this are key to that.
“The level of enthusiasm we’re seeing from people who are excited about getting better context about their energy use, and share—even brag—about their energy efficiency within their social networks is inspiring,” said Dan Yates, CEO and co-founder of Opower. “It demonstrates a shift within the industry for how people expect to interact with their utility. Having meaningful conversations with customers using social channels will soon become common in the utility industry.”
“Facebook was designed to enable people to connect, share and multiply their impact,” said Marcy Scott Lynn, Facebook Sustainability. ”This app is a powerful, easily accessible way for people on Facebook to do just that, inspiring conversations about really important topics – energy and the environment – that might not otherwise have taken place.”
“If every household in the U.S. cut back on electricity use by a mere 1%, that alone would cut more than $1.6 billion off of Americans’ annual energy bills. That’s the same as taking more than 1.2 million homes off-the-grid all together,” said Brandi Colander, NRDC Attorney, Energy and Transportation Group. NRDC’s partnership support includes subject matter expertise, partnership development and promotion. “This important tool will enhance energy literacy, making our daily energy choices more transparent and empowering people to make smarter, more economical decisions.”
App Based on Behavioral Science
The new app is based on behavioral science dating back to the 1980s, at least, which has found that word-of-mouth is a good way to get people to save energy. Simple, but effective.
“The application’s concept derives from extensive social science research on human behavior change and energy use. Dating back to NRDC’s Hood River Conservation Project in the 1980s—word-of-mouth proved to be an effective tool in encouraging people to use energy more efficiently. The application’s use of this kind of behavioral science combined with energy information, and Facebook’s global platform for connecting and sharing has the potential to create a dialogue and action about energy efficiency among hundreds of millions of people”
The utilities currently involved are:
- Austin Utilities (Minnesota)
- Burbank Water & Power
- Connexus Energy
- Consumers Energy
- Direct Energy (coming soon in 2012)
- Glendale Water & Power
- Loveland Water and Power
- National Grid (New York and Massachusetts)
- New Jersey Natural Gas (coming in 2012)
- Owatonna Public Utilities
- Pacific Gas and Electric Company
- City of Palo Alto Utilities
- PPL Electric Utilities Corp.
- Rochester Public Utilities
- Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC
What do you think? Will this blow up and make a big difference? Or will it make an important incremental difference at least?
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.