25 March 2012

U.S. "green button" to help boost household energy savings 

More U.S. utilities and electricity suppliers this week committed to White House's Green Button program  that helps customers reduce energy usage and shrink bills by providing them with secure, easy-to-understand information on how they are using energy in their households.

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In January, as the Green Button program was launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy together with several utility and technology companies, utilities committed to provide the capability to nearly 12 million households this year.

Nine major utilities on board will provide more than 15 million households access to their energy data. In all, about 27 million households will be able to access to data about their own energy use with a simple click of an online “Green Button.”

“The opportunity to join the Green Button Initiative comes at a perfect time as we prepare to roll out smart meters later this year,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd.

“Green Button will reinforce our efforts to educate customers and help them take full advantage of the benefits and added value that Smart Grid technology will deliver.” More comments

Participating utilities are working with technology companies to transform Green Button’s data into an easy-to-understand, online format for their customers. 

With that information in hand, consumers would be enabled to make more informed decisions about their energy use and, when coupled with opportunities to take action, empowered to more actively manage their energy use.

Furthermore, making this information available in standardized file formats  will help spur innovative new consumer applications and devices from entrepreneurs, large companies and students.

The Green Button might be put to use:

*Insight: entrepreneur-created web portals to analyze usage and provide actionable tips;
*Heating and Cooling: customizing thermostats for savings and comfort;
*Education: community and student energy efficiency competitions;
*Retrofits: improved decision-support tools to facilitate energy efficiency retrofits;
*Verification: measurement of structural energy efficiency investments;
*Real Estate: energy costs for tenants and/or new home purchasers; and
*Solar: optimizing the size of rooftop solar panels.

Developing applications in progress

The utilities have agreed to base their Green Buttons on a common technical standard developed in collaboration with a public-private partnership supported by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Adoption of a consensus standard by utilities across the Nation means software developers and other entrepreneurs have a sufficiently large market to support the creation of innovative applications that can help consumers make the most of their energy information.  

In fact, companies are already developing web and smart phone applications and services for businesses and homeowners that can use Green Button data.

These tools can help consumers choose the most economical rate plan for their energy use patterns; deliver customized energy-efficiency tips; provide easy-to-use tools to size and finance rooftop solar panels; and conduct virtual energy audits that can cut costs for building owners and speed the initiation of retrofits.

Companies announcing this week commitments to support utility deployment of Green Button include Itron, OPower, Oracle, and Silver Spring Networks, joining existing commitments from Aclara and Tendril.

Developing applications or services for businesses and consumers using this industry data standard include: Belkin, Efficiency 2.0, EnergySavvy, FirstFuel, Honest Buildings, Lucid, Plotwatt, Schneider-Electric, Simple Energy, and Sunrun.

Similar commitments were made in January by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, Oncor, Pepco Holdings Inc., Glendale Water and Power, and San Diego Gas & Electric to provide the capability to nearly 12 million households in 2012.

Federal agencies doing their part

The Department of Energy today announced today an this week 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 USD8 million in grant funding that is helping consumers use new smart-grid technologies to better manage their energy consumption.

The Department of Energy today also launched today an online map that shows the progress utilities are making towards providing their customers access to their own energy data in consumer-friendly and computer-friendly formats.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also joined the Green Button team.  The agency has committed to working with entrepreneurs and utilities to take advantage of Green Button data to help commercial building owners benchmark the energy use of their buildings.

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