Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan0
The Green Button
March 23rd, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
I think I saw dozens of news releases come in yesterday about utilities’ or other companies’ participation in the new Green Button program. The reason was there was a big “Powering the People 2.0” event at the White House. I’m not going to run down how each of these companies is getting involved in its own unique way, but for anyone not familiar with the Green Button, I thought it would be useful to run down some of the key points of this program.
“Green Button is the common-sense idea that electricity customers should be able to securely download their own easy-to-understand energy usage information from their utility or electricity supplier,” the Green Button website notes. “Armed with this information, consumers can use a growing array of new web and smartphone tools to make more informed energy decisions, optimize the size and cost-effectiveness of solar panels for their home, or verify that energy-efficiency retrofit investments are performing as promised. Consumers can even use fun innovative apps that allow individuals to compete against Facebook friends to save energy and lower their carbon emissions.”
While the Green Button came about through a White House call-to-action, it is an industry-led initiative. It’s also a common-sense way of improving how consumers understand and interact with their energy usage using the world’s increasingly sophisticated computer technology and software.
Adoption of the Green Button across the nation “allows software developers and other entrepreneurs to leverage a sufficiently large market to support the creation of innovative applications that can help consumers make the most of their energy usage information.”
Simple Energy and eMeter (a Siemens Business), two companies involved in the initiative, emailed me yesterday to let me know about a new white paper of theirs entitiled The Engaged Customer: How data standardization leads to empowered customers and successful Smart Grid deployments. The Simple Energy Customer Engagement Platform, the first 3rd-party application to offer full integration with Green Button data, has helped the average consumer in its demonstration program in San Diego “to save an average of more than 20% on their energy consumption, with the top performer in the program achieving nearly 50% in savings.” In other words, this stuff works!
Voluntary but widespread use.
No one is being forced to implement the Green Button, but it’s clear that utilities and smart grid companies are eager to jump on board and show their green leadership.
Here are some of the most recent stats:
“Initially launched in January, utilities committed to provide Green Button capability to nearly 12 million households in 2012. Two utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric — have implemented live functionality on their websites. Recently, nine major utilities and electricity suppliers signed on to the initiative, committing to provide more than 15 million households secure access to their energy data with a simple click of an online Green Button. In total, these commitments ensure that 27 million households will be able to access their own energy information, and this number will continue to grow as utilities nation-wide voluntarily make energy data more available in this common, machine-readable format.”
You can see lists of all the utilities and companies involved on the Green Button adopters page.
The Department of Energy also just yesterday announced “an Apps for Energy contest to spur the invention of tools and services that will help consumers gain information, take action, and save on their utility bills. The contest complements $8 million in grant funding that is helping consumers use new smart-grid technologies to better manage their energy consumption.”
I’m sure, with the many creative minds out there and app developers, there will be many interesting ways of using Green Button data. Here’s a list of ways in which the Green Button crew are encouraging people to get involved with their data right now:
- Insight: entrepreneur-created web portals that can analyze energy usage and provide actionable tips;
- Heating and Cooling: customized heating and cooling activities for savings and comfort;
- Education: community and student energy-efficiency competitions;
- Retrofits: improved decision-support tools to facilitate energy-efficiency retrofits;
- Verification: measurement of energy-efficiency investments;
- Real Estate: provision of energy costs for tenants and/or new home purchasers; and
- Solar: optimize the size and cost-effectiveness of rooftop solar panels.